No ‘human factors’ behind fire at Lhasa’s Jokhang temple, says China
China said on Thursday that “human factors” did not cause the fire at the revered Jokhang Temple in Lhasa last week, sparking fears of large-scale damage to the site considered one of the most sacred shrines for Tibetans.
The fire at the temple in Lhasa, the capital of Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR), erupted on Saturday, the second day of the Tibetan New Year, also known as Losar.
“A preliminary investigation has ruled out any human factors in the fire that broke out in Jokhang Temple in Lhasa, capital of southwest China's TAR,” official Xinhua news agency reported on Thursday.
The report did not clear the air on what caused the blaze.
Information about the fire remained sketchy as speculation spread about the extent of damage to the ancient site, located at the centre of Lhasa.
The Xinhua report gave some details of the damage.
“The fire broke out on the second floor of the rear part of the sacred monastery at 6.40 Saturday evening and was soon put out. An area of about 50 square metres was burned,” it said.
The report said the fire began in the ventilating chamber, built in the late 1980s, adding that no cultural relics were stored inside the chamber.
The golden top of the temple was removed in case of a collapse or a second fire.
The regional cultural relics bureau told Xinhua that all the “registered 6,510 cultural relics and the main building were intact”.
Tibetan activists based abroad had said the 1,300-year-old temple, a UNESCO world heritage site that houses cultural treasures sacred to Tibetans, was badly damaged in the fire.
“There are fears that the damage may be more widespread than the authorities acknowledge,” the International Campaign for Tibet (ICT) said in a statement this week
“The fire apparently began in a building near the Jokhang, with some sources saying this was the Meru Nyingpa monastery in the alley ways of the Barkhor, and then spread. One source in touch with an eyewitness said that several buildings nearby had been burnt to the ground, although that could not be confirmed,” the statement added.