The Mandarin Oriental Beijing hotel was destroyed by an unlicensed fireworks display set off by CCTV itself.
State TV company apologizes for Beijing fire
BEIJING – China’s state-run television broadcaster apologized Tuesday for an unlicensed fireworks display that sparked a blaze that destroyed a luxury hotel in the network’s headquarters complex in downtown Beijing.
The fire, which sent off huge plumes of black smoke and showered the ground with embers, left one firefighter dead and a handful of others injured, the official Xinhua News Agency said. The blaze was put out early Tuesday after burning for more than five hours at the unfinished Mandarin Oriental hotel.
Xinhua quoted Luo Yuan, a spokesman for the Beijing fire department, as saying that fireworks set off to celebrate the Lunar New Year were to blame for the fire that destroyed the nearly finished Mandarin Oriental hotel.
He was quoted as saying CCTV had hired a fireworks company to ignite several hundred large fireworks in an open area by the hotel. Video footage posted on Youtube showed spectacular bursts of fireworks above the top of the building in downtown Beijing.
“According to the Beijing fire department, this fire occurred because the person in charge of the construction of the new building project of CCTV, without permission, hired staff to set off fireworks that violated regulations,” China Central Television said in a statement on its Web site.
CCTV said it was deeply grieved “for the severe damage the fire caused to the country’s property.”
At lunch a few hours ago I was discussing with a friend the possibility of ordinary fireworks sold on the street having the force to set a skyscraper on fire. We both agreed it was more likely a professional display gone awry.
Heads are going to roll.
Update: I guess we now know why Xinhua sent out instructions last night to minimize and spin the story:
To all websites: Report related to the Fire in the CCTV new building, please only use Xinhua news report. No photo, no video clip, no in-depth report; the news should be put on news area only, close the comment posts, don’t top the forum blogpost, don’t recommend posts related with the subject.
Another textbook example of CCP cover-upping.
Richard Burger is the author of Behind the Red Door: Sex in China, an exploration of China's sexual revolution and its clash with traditional Chinese values.