CHINA> Regional
Hotel adjacent to Beijing's new CCTV headquarters on fire
Updated: 2009-02-09 23:34

BEIJING -- A hotel adjacent to the new China Central Television (CCTV) headquarters in Beijing caught fire Monday night, witnesses said, but the blaze was abating after 10:45 p.m.

The 159-meter building, the Mandarin Oriental Hotel, is around a corner from the iconic CCTV main tower and part of the complex, the witnesses said.

The hotel was used during the Olympics, but the hotel won't officially open until mid-2009. Witnesses said some lights had been on in the hotel.

There was no immediate word of injuries, nor was the cause of the fire known. As Monday is China's traditional Lantern Festival, the end of the Lunar New Year holiday, fireworks were being set off nearby.

A young man who declined to be identified said the fire had apparently started at about 8:25 p.m., when firecrackers landed on the top of the building. Police couldn't immediately confirm that account.

The man, who claimed he had worked with the construction company that built the hotel, said he saw someone on watch on the CCTV main tower with a hose when firecrackers were set off. "But I didn't see any on top of the hotel," he added.

A policeman said that the building might collapse.

More than 1,000 people in the area were evacuated and traffic controls were imposed around the scene and on the east Third Ring Road, one of several major highways that encircle the capital.

"It is horrible," said woman surnamed Chang, who lives on the 19th floor of an apartment building about 1 kilometer from the CCTV complex.

"There is thick black smoke and high flames. At first we just saw fire on top of the building, but now it is entirely engulfed," she said.

"The building was used during the Olympic Games, but the companies moved out afterwards," said a CCTV staff member surnamed Chen, adding that he didn't know whether there were still people in the building.

The 241-room luxury facility, in the heart of the capital's Central Business District, was intended to be Mandarin Oriental's flagship property in China.

Liu Yunshan, head of the Communist Party of China Central Committee Publicity Department, Beijing's Party chief Liu Qi and Beijing Mayor Guo Jinlong rushed to the scene.