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Fire fighter dead in CCTV hotel fire, 6 others in hospital
Updated: 2009-02-10 13:46

A fireman died from injuries incurred while fighting a massive fire that engulfed a hotel near the new China Central Television (CCTV) headquarters in Beijing Monday night.

Zhang Jianyong, political instructor of the Chaoyang branch of the Beijing fire brigade, died at Chaoyang Hospital at around 3 am Tuesday, municipal fire control authorities said.

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A spokesman with the Beijing Fire Control Bureau said Zhang, 30, inhaled toxic gas and his respiratory tract was seriously injured while he worked to put out the fire.

Zhang is from Shenyang, capital of northeastern Liaoning Province. His family are on their way to Beijing.

About 600 firemen fought the fire, which destroyed the nearly-completed Mandarin Oriental Hotel, part of the new CCTV complex. It started at 8:27 p.m. and was put out at around 2 am.

Six other people were injured in the blaze, including five firemen and a CCTV worker. Chaoyang Hospital's vice president Hou Shengcai said their injuries were not life-threatening.

The flames paralyzed traffic in the area and halted operation of a subway line Monday night.

Xinhua reporters on the scene said about 80 percent of the 30-story, 159-meter tall building was charred. No sign of damage was seen on the iconic CCTV main tower about 200 meters apart.

Tuesday morning, the site was crowded with journalists snapping photos of the ruins, as well as several thousand onlookers, mostly residents who lived near the site and witnessed the fire Monday night. Traffic in the area has returned to normal.

In a statement posted on its website Tuesday, Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group said the hotel was empty at the time of the fire, though some witnesses claimed they saw some lights on in the building before the fire.

"The property currently employs 60 staff, all of whom work in pre-opening offices near the hotel," the group said. "Our local management team are doing all they can to help the authorities to ensure the safety and security of everyone involved."

The groups said it is still too early to assess the damage.

Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group said it is contracted to manage the hotel but has no ownership interest in the building.

The hotel and the iconic CCTV main tower were both designed by Rotterdam-based OMA. Total investment is about 5 billion yuan (US$714 million).

The hotel was used during the Olympics, but wasn't slated to officially open until mid-2009.

An initial investigation showed the fire was caused by fireworks, a spokesman with the Beijing Municipal Government said. Firefighters found remnants of firecrackers on the southern roof of the burning building.

Monday was the traditional Chinese Lantern Festival and fireworks were allowed in downtown Beijing until midnight.