Twisted arsonists have torched a historic landmark and obliterated what was thought to be Europe's largest timber structure.
Sickened cops have launched an investigation after shocking images showed a bright orange wall of flame engulf Dunston Staiths, in Gateshead, near Newcastle.
The once glorious Grade II listed structure opened in 1893 and was a symbol of Britain's once-proud coal industry.
It was built so Durham coal could be dropped into boats on the Tyne below.
But now, thanks to cruel criminals, all that history has been lost, leaving one of those behind its upkeep "angry" and then "numb".
And what's worse, it has erased months of fundraising by selfless local Brits to restore the structure which was partly damaged in a fire last year.
The alarm was raised at around 2.30am with crews from the Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service, including the Fireboat, working desperately all through the night to bring the blaze under control.
But in a cruel twist, the terrible blaze reignited later in the morning.
Northumbria Police are treating the fire as arson.
Detective Inspector Andy Gimza said: "This fire has caused a significant amount of damage to this historic monument.
"This incident sadly comes after months of fundraising to restore the structure following a fire in 2019.
"At present we're treating this as a deliberate act of vandalism, so a criminal investigation has been launched.
"If you saw anyone suspicious in the area of the Staiths late Friday night or early Saturday morning, please get in touch."
Police local people to check CCTV for any sign of the scum who started the fire.
The Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service tweeted pictures from the scene overnight and said: "As you can see from these photos, the fire at Dunston Staiths was extremely serious.
"Put simply, deliberate fires put people at risk.
"If you have any information about this incident contact @northumbriapol on 101."
The Staiths fell into disrepair after the decline of the coal industry but were restored and used as a visitor attraction, holding public events such as markets.
Andrew Smith, from the Friends of the Staiths group, is a keyholder for the structure and watched with a heavy heart through the night as the fire crews fought tirelessly to defeat the flames.
He thought the damage would cost hundreds of thousands of pounds to repair, and he thought the fire was started on the upper of the structure's two decks.
Mr Smith, a teacher, said: "Initially I was really angry because we put so much time and effort in as a group, having had to fundraise after a previous attempt.
"But after watching the fire crews, me and another volunteer didn't say anything, I was just numb.
"After seeing the sunrise, and it was so beautiful, I started to think: 'We will deal with this, one step at a time."'
Anyone with information is asked to visit the 'Report an Incident' section of the Northumbria Police website or call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.
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