Fire rages at Beijing hotel after fireworks
Monday, February 9, 2009
BEIJING — A new 44-story luxury hotel
in downtown Beijing was engulfed in flames Monday after
being showered with sparks from fireworks set off during
China's biggest holiday.
There were no reports of deaths or injuries.
The Rem Koolhaas-designed Mandarin Oriental hotel, still
under construction, caught fire sometime before 9 p.m. as
the skies above the Chinese capital were filled with fireworks
— part of celebrations of the lantern festival that
follows the Lunar New Year.
The shooting flames sent off huge plumes of black smoke
and showered the ground with embers. At least seven fire
crews were on the scene, and police held back crowds of
onlookers and closed a nearby elevated highway to ensure
One onlooker, Li Jian, said he saw smoke rise from the
hotel's roof shortly after a huge burst of fireworks showered
it with sparks, though it was not clear if the sparks started
"Smoke came out for a little while, but then it just
started burning," Li said.
People answering the phone at the Beijing fire department
confirmed the fire but said they were unable to release
Crews had largely exinguished the larger flames about three
hours after the fire began, although hotspots continued
Beijing usually tightly restricts the use of fireworks
downtown, but waives the rules each year during the Lunar
New Year holiday. Monday, the final day of the exemption
period, marked the first full moon since the Lunar New Year,
and massive fireworks barrages exploded in open spaces throughout
The hotel, which had been due to open this year, is next
to China Central Television's landmark Z-shaped headquarters,
a major prestige project for the city. The television headquarters
was not burning. The Mandarin Oriental was expected to be
one of Beijing's most luxurious hotels, with 241 guest rooms.
Both buildings were designed by Netherlands architects
Rem Koolhaas and Ole Scheeren for the firm OMA. Both were
nearing the end of construction.
The fire had destroyed years of hard work, said Erik Amir,
a senior architect at OMA, who rushed to the site.
"I think it's really sad that this building is destroyed
before it can be opened to the public," he said.
Plans to build a 43-story Mandarin Oriental hotel in the
downtown Dallas Victory Park development were shelved last
spring because of deteriorating economic conditions.
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