The Associated Press is reporting that yesterday’s blaze in Beijing, which destroyed the yet-to-open Mandarin Oriental Hotel, was caused by Lunar New Year fireworks organized by China Central Television (CCTV). The fire also killed one firefighter and injured six others.
The $731 million, 520-foot Mandarin Oriental hotel complex was designed by Dutch architects Rem Koolhaas and Ole Scheeren, and had been scheduled to open in May. The building was to also include a theater, recording studios and cinemas, while CCTV's main production and broadcasting units were to occupy the main building next door. There is no immediate word on damage to the adjacent CCTV Tower.
Reportedly, CCTV hired a fireworks company to ignite several hundred large fireworks in an open area beside the hotel. Video footage posted online showed spectacular bursts of fireworks above the building. The fire lit up the night sky, showering the ground with embers and charred debris as police held back crowds of onlookers. The blaze wasn't put out until early Tuesday after burning for more than five hours.
CCTV has issued the following statement on their website:
“Beijing Fire Control Bureau says CCTV staff responsible for the construction of the new TV complex, hired staff to ignite large festive firecrackers outside the building, and caused the fire. The move did not receive approval from related authorities. The fire has caused severe damage. CCTV sincerely apologizes for the damage that the fire caused, and the inconvenience it has brought to the public.”
A decision hasn’t been reached on whether the hotel can be rebuilt, or whether it will be torn down. The Mandarin Oriental website notes that “Mandarin Oriental has signed a long term contract to manage the hotel and has no ownership interest in the building.”