Fire claims building at CCTV Beijing headquarters

BEIJING Mon Feb 9, 2009 3:34pm EST

1 of 9. A crowd watch as the building that housed the soon-to-be-opened Mandarin Oriental hotel burns after it caught on fire in Beijing, February 9, 2009.

Credit: Reuters/David Gray

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BEIJING (Reuters) - Fire consumed a building in Beijing that formed part of Central China Television's new headquarters as residents set off fireworks throughout the city to celebrate the Lantern Festival on Monday evening.

Flames 20-30 feet high shot out of the building, just north of the landmark CCTV tower designed by Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas. The flames were reflected in the tower, which itself appeared to be untouched.

"The upper fifth is on fire, multiple floors. Debris is falling and flames are coming out in all directions," Edie Marshall, a Beijing resident, told Reuters.

The fire began abating just before midnight (11:00 a.m. EST).

No one appeared to have been in the building, a policeman on the scene said, adding he had no immediate knowledge of any casualties.

Hundreds of people watched and took photos as fire trucks sprayed streams of water on the building. Armed police moved the onlookers beyond a cordon as paramilitary troops moved in on the building.

The fire department did not immediately comment on the suspected cause of the blaze, which occurred as the city was bombarded with fireworks on the final day of the Lunar New Year holiday.

The destroyed building housed the Mandarin Oriental hotel in eastern Beijing, which was supposed to open in 2009. It was also designed to include a theater, recording studios and cinemas, while CCTV's main production and broadcasting units were to occupy the main building next door.

(Writing by Lucy Hornby: Editing by Angus MacSwan).

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