REGIONAL> Major News
Official: CCTV itself responsible for Monday's massive fire
Updated: 2009-02-10 16:21

China Central Television (CCTV) itself was responsible for Monday night's massive fire that caused one death and seven injuries in its new headquarters complex in eastern Beijing, the city's fire control authorities said Tuesday.

CCTV hired staff from a fireworks company to ignite several hundred large festive firecrackers in an open space outside one of its nearly-completed buildings, said Luo Yuan, spokesman and deputy chief of Beijing Fire Control Bureau.

The 30-storey building, about 200 meters from the iconic CCTV tower, houses the luxury Mandarin Oriental Hotel, a television studio and an electronic data processing center.

The people who ignited the fireworks are being questioned by police, Luo said at a press conference late Tuesday morning. He said the fireworks company was based in the central province of Hunan, but did not give details.

He said the fireworks they set off were much more powerful and explosive than what was available at roadside stalls during the Spring Festival and therefore needed approval from the municipal government before being allowed in the downtown areas.

Policemen on patrol interfered when the explosives were set off, but CCTV ignored their warnings, said Luo. "We have videos of the scene and remnants of the fireworks, which will serve as strong evidence in the investigation."

CCTV's four camcorders recorded the fireworks display and the entire ignition process, he said.

A man, who claimed to be former employee of Beijing Urban Construction Group, said he saw people on watch on top of CCTV's main tower with a hose when the firecrackers were set off.

"But I didn't see any on guard on top of the building that caught fire," he told Xinhua reporters at the fire site Monday night.

Beijing Urban Construction Group is prime contractor for the building that caught fire, while the iconic main tower, which many locals jokingly called "the giant shorts", was contracted to another company.

Both buildings were designed by the Rotterdam-based OMA. Total investment is about 5 billion yuan (714 million U.S. dollars).

The fire broke out at 8:27 p.m. Monday and was put out at 2 a.m.

Xinhua reporters saw about 80 percent of the building had been charred by Tuesday morning. No sign of damage was seen on the CCTV main tower. It is not immediately known whether the fire would postpone the official inauguration of the new CCTV tower, originally slated for October.

About 600 firemen worked to put out the fire. One of them, Zhang Jianyong from the northeastern Liaoning Province, died from respiratory tract injuries at hospital early Tuesday. He was to celebrate his 30th birthday in two weeks.

Beijing Fire Control Bureau said seven others were injured, including six firemen and one construction worker.