Tuesday, February 10, 2009



Yesterday marked the end of the Lantern Festival which means one thing in Beijing: the end of day-long fireworks and firecrackers. But China being China there is always a twist! It turns out that the end of fireworks started one of the biggest fire.

What was supposed to be the flagship hotel of the Mandarin Oriental chain in China has turned into a 40 story inferno.

The fire has lit up the Beijing skyline, and took place in the final hours of the Chinese Lunar New Year - when many people are setting off fireworks.

The Mandarin Oriental Beijing is located next to the new headquarters of China Central Television, but that building is said to be undamaged.
It is NOT the CCTV tower that burned but the building right next to it called TVCC (confused?!!). The 116,000m2 building includes (included?) a hotel, a visitor’s center, a large public theater and exhibition spaces and was designed by Dutch Architect Rem Koolhaas of OMA.

Apparently CCTV executives had hired people to illegally set off fireworks. The fireworks they used were dangerous and needed approval before being allowed in downtown Beijing. CCTV did not get approval and ignored police warnings that night.

Firefighters and their equipment, who could only reach up a dozen or so floors, could do little to contain the blaze. One firefighter died and 6 other persons were injured.

Ironically CCTV (which is the National Chinese TV) who is responsible for one of the biggest fire in recent year didn’t show footage of the blaze, relegated the story to the second last item and kept it brief. China’s propaganda authorities had instructed domestic media not to run photos, video and in-depth reports on the fire and to carry only the version put out by Xinhua. (but the directive was leaked online!).
Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire
The aftermath


  1. There is discussion on whether to reintroduce a ban on fireworks in downtown Beijing. The 12-year ban was lifted in 2006.
  2. The air quality in the city also plunged to a heavy pollution level Tuesday, the worst since May 28, 2008, as a result of the firework celebrations on Monday night.
  3. Since January 25, the eve of the new lunar year, 403 people have been injured and 103 fire incidents have been reported.
  4. Apparently a text message that had been circulated on Monday among CCTV staff had asked them to contribute 19.90 yuan (€2 or $3) toward the cost of a Lantern Festival event and fireworks display at the new headquarters. (!)