Wed, Aug 15, 2007 - Page 5 News List

Fire breaks out at site of Shanghai Hills skyscraper

AGENCIES , SHANGHAI

Fire broke out yesterday at the site of China's future tallest building, although there were no immediate reports of injuries or deaths.

At 5:30pm black smoke poured from the Shanghai World Financial Center in the heart of the city's Pudong financial district, according to a photographer on the scene.

Eight fire trucks were sent to douse the blaze after thick smoke was seen billowing out of a high floor, a witness said.

An officer contacted at Pudong's Lujiazui police station confirmed the fire but said he had no other details.

"Firefighters and police are working on the scene. I haven't got any report about the cause yet. No more details right now," said the officer, who refused to give his name, as is usual with Chinese police officials.

The fire is just the latest travail to face the wedge-shaped tower, being built at a cost of US$910 million. The concrete, steel, and glass tower is due to be finished next year, when its 101 stories will loom 492m over China's business hub.

There will be two towers at the 400,000m2 Shanghai IFC complex, which will also include two hotels and a shopping mall.

For six years after ground was broken at the site in the mid-1990s, the project was little more than a hole in the ground: The Asian financial crisis had virtually obliterated demand for new office space in Shanghai.

After the project was revived in 2003, the builders had to alter a key design feature -- a circular cutout near the top -- after complaints that it resembled the rising sun on Japan's flag, a symbol reviled by many Chinese because of Japan's brutal occupation of the country in World War II.

And earlier this year, the tower's builder, the Mori Building Co of Tokyo, were criticized by Shanghai authorities for altering the project's name to "Shanghai Hills" to link it to its other marquee projects, the famed Roppongi Hills and Omotesando Hills complexes.

The company said the formal registered name of the project remained the Shanghai World Financial Center and "Shanghai Hills" was merely a branding strategy.

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