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Illegal fireworks gut Beijing landmark

world Updated: Feb 10, 2009 23:36 IST
Reshma Patil
Reshma Patil
Hindustan Times
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A charred steel skeleton is all that remains of a new 241-room luxury hotel in the heart of Beijing, where tourists flock to photograph Olympian skyscrapers designed to rival the older skylines of global capitals.

The 520-foot-high steel tower was destroyed within hours in a Monday night inferno that blacked out a full moon sky.

On Tuesday, officials blamed the blaze — and the resultant death of a fireman — on the Communist Party’s propaganda arm for setting off hundreds of powerful fireworks without permission, and ignoring warnings from police patrols.

Planned as a hotel, cinema complex and television studio, it was slated to open this year. It arched sharply next to two Z-shaped leaning towers linked at 90-degree angles, to house an iconic media centre for the Communist Party broadcaster China Central Television.

The two buildings, designed by architects in the Netherlands and built at a cost of $ 714 million, were meant as a display of the power of modern China.

The Xinhua news agency said policemen on patrol had objected to the fireworks. “We have videos of the scene and remnants of the fireworks, which will serve as strong evidence in the investigation,” said Luo Yuan, deputy chief of the Beijing Fire Control Bureau. “The property’s owners ignored police warnings against such fireworks.’’

The inferno continued into Monday night while the skyline was also lit by a traditional display of fireworks to mark the end of the Lunar New Year holiday.

The blaze was on from 8.27 pm to 2 am. About 600 firemen battled to save the hotel even as fireworks continued on nearby streets. A 30-year-old firefighter died from inhaling toxic fumes, and seven others were injured.