Wed, Feb 11, 2009 - Page 5 News List

China’s state TV blamed for Beijing high-rise blaze

‘BIG LOSS’ An official said staffers had defied warnings not to set off fireworks at the station’s new headquarters. CCTV did not mention the blaze in its noon newscast

AGENCIES , BEIJING

Investigators yesterday blamed China’s state TV station CCTV for a huge blaze at its new headquarters that engulfed a hotel, saying fireworks it illegally set off to celebrate the Lunar New Year caused the fire.

One firefighter died after inhaling toxic fumes while battling the fire at the Mandarin Oriental’s nearly finished flagship hotel inside the CCTV complex that began on Monday night and raged for more than five hours, officials said.

Seven people were injured, but the Mandarin Oriental said no one was in the hotel when the fire started, indicating the death toll was unlikely to climb sharply.

The 159m tall hotel was just 200m from the futuristic CCTV tower that has quickly won fame as one of Beijing’s most stunning buildings and a striking symbol of China’s new-found global power.

Both buildings were designed by renowned Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas’ Office of Metropolitan Architecture and were due to open this year.

City government officials said the exterior of the hotel had been severely damaged, while the external walls of the 234m CCTV tower were burnt but its structure was not harmed.

In a public relations disaster for CCTV, authorities said the station defied police warnings and set off powerful fireworks in the complex.

“The owner caused the fire because it violated regulations and set off fireworks at the construction site,” said Zhu Xu, a spokesman for the Beijing government.

CCTV staff recorded the fireworks show, which involved pyrotechnics far stronger than the public is allowed to use, Xinhua news agency quoted Beijing Fire Control Bureau Luo Yuan as saying.

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

He said the people who set off the fireworks were being detained for questioning.

CCTV apologized for the fire on its official Web site.

“We feel very hurt that the fire caused a big loss of national wealth,” it said. “We apologize to the nearby people for the traffic jams and inconvenience caused by the fire.”

However, CCTV did not show footage of the fire or mention it during its noon broadcast yesterday.

“It is clear only that the cause was firing fireworks against regulations. The detailed cause is still under investigation,” an official in CCTV’s foreign affairs department of CCTV, told The Associated Press yesterday.

The person refused to give her name because she did not have permission to speak to the media.

The CCTV complex, built at a cost of 5 billion yuan (US$710 million), was among many amazing developments to rise ahead of last year’s Beijing Olympics.

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