Scorched and blackened by fire, the nearly-completed tower housing the Mandarin Oriental Hotel escaped serious damage.
AN unauthorised Olympics-style fireworks display put on by CCTV was behind the inferno at the state broadcaster's own new building complex which killed one fireman and injured seven others.
The Beijing fire authorities yesterday revealed that China Central Television, which owns the 30-storey tower that caught fire on Monday night, had 'gone against police advice' and 'insisted' on the display, which involved powerful fireworks similar to those used during the Beijing Olympic Games in August last year.
A senior official with 'the office of the CCTV new headquarters construction project' had engaged a Hunan fireworks company to set off hundreds of fireworks in an empty lot in front of the nearly-completed tower which houses the Mandarin Oriental Hotel, state media reported the Beijing Fire Control Bureau as saying.
The luxury 241-room hotel's opening was scheduled for this summer and was unoccupied during the blaze. The CCTV fire occurred during the Lantern Festival when many Chinese set off fireworks and firecrackers to mark the end of the 15-day Chinese New Year celebrations.
CCTV yesterday apologised on its website for the fire: 'We feel very hurt that the fire caused a big loss of national wealth... We apologise to the nearby people for the traffic jams and inconvenience caused by the fire.'
It did not say if the fire would delay its move into its new base originally scheduled for October.
Mr Luo Yuan, deputy chief of the bureau, said the people who set off the fireworks have been detained for questioning. Firefighter Zhang Jianyong, 29, died yesterday due to respiratory tract injuries.
The damaged 159m-high tower is located 200m north of the CCTV complex's main inverted L-shaped structure. The structure, one of Beijing's top architectural draws, escaped serious damage.
The 5 billion yuan (S$1 billion) CCTV complex was designed by renowned Netherlands architects Rem Koolhaas and Ole Scheeren of Rotterdam-based Office for Metropolitan Architecture.
Videos posted online showed that the fire had started at the top of the tower. It took some 600 firefighters over five hours to put out the blaze, which began around 8.30pm.
One reason why the fire spread so quickly could be linked to the tower's design. The hotel boasts an open central section from top to bottom, akin to a huge airwell in the middle of the hotel, a Beijing-based architect with knowledge of the project told The Straits Times.
'The airwell provided the fire with a lot of oxygen, functioning sort of like a chimney,' he said.
He added that because the building was not yet operational, fire systems such as sprinklers and automatic fire doors which could have helped limit the spread of the fire were not activated.
Source : StraitTimes
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