Christian Living

chinaconnection 02/10/09

CCTV Fire: The Aftermath

It's been about 24 hours since a New Year's fire gone wrong set one of Beijing's most famous landmarks ablaze.  Even though the aftermath of the fire has cast a heavy fog over the sky, there's more clarity regarding the scope and cause of this devastating fire.

The fire was started by one CCTV (China Central Television) employee who simply wanted to set off fireworks in honor of the night's Lantern Festival, which marks the end of the Chinese New Year.  Needless to say, his celebration didn't quite go according to plan.

Since the Mandarin Oriental Hotel and Chinese cultural center attached to the CCTV building were unoccupied, no guests were harmed, but one firefighter lost his life and six others were injured while combating the flames that lasted for five hours.  The other 600 firefighters and hundreds more onlookers were fine.

According to Xinhua News, about 80 percent of the CCTV main tower was charred by the fire, and the Mandarin Oriental Hotel was completely destroyed.  The entire complex cost an estimated $714 million dollars, but the cost of the damages remains unknown.

In addition to the cost of the building, the fire also left quite a mark on Beijing's environment. Beijing resident Patrick Fung says that the after the fire, the Beijing air is "terrible.  The sky is gray.  It is quite dirty.  I can even smell the gun powders in the air."  Many workers were cleaning remnants of the fire throughout the city.

While reports of the fire were plastered throughout the blogosphere, CCTV did not mention or air footage of the fire during its noon broadcast.  It did, however, provide an apology for the fire on a later newscast, which you can read here

It will be interesting to see how this event changes the city.  The CCTV building was one of the defining landmarks newly constructed for the Olympics, and while most of it still stands, it doesn't quite have the same image of modernity and progress.  How will it be rebuilt?

At the very least, we can be assured that Beijing's fireworks laws will definitely be much stricter next year. 

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