Beijing hotel blaze caused by ‘unlicensed’ fireworks

Fire that swept through part of CCTV's hypermodern complex in Beijing was caused by powerful but unapproved Lantern Festival fireworks.

Written by Reuters | Beijing | Published:February 10, 2009 10:50 am

A fire that swept through part of Central China Television’s hypermodern complex in Beijing was caused by powerful but unapproved Lantern Festival fireworks,state media said.

A fireman died after inhaling toxic gases when fighting the fire at the still unopened 30-storey building,Xinhua news agency said. Seven people were injured,including six firefighters.

The blaze started on Monday evening and put out at 2 a.m. on Tuesday.

Flames of 20-30 feet (10 metres) high shot out of the building,just north of the spectacular,gravity-defying CCTV tower designed by Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas. The flames were reflected in the tower,which itself appeared to be untouched.

“CCTV hired staff from a fireworks company to ignite several hundred large festive firecrackers” in an open space outside the near-completed Mandarin Oriental Hotel,part of the CCTV tower complex,Xinhua said,quoting a fire brigade spokesman.

He said these fireworks were “much more powerful and explosive” than those available at roadside stalls during the Chinese New Year holiday and needed approval from the municipal government.

“Owners of the property ignored policemen’s warnings that such fireworks were not allowed,” spokesman Luo Yuan was quoted as saying.

Fireworks are set off throughout the Lunar New Year period,even in downtown Beijing,with the highest number and most spectacular saved for the eve of the holiday and on Lantern Festival at the end.

The Mandarin Oriental had been due to open this year. CCTV’s main production and broadcasting units occupy the main building next door.

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