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Fireworks Caused CCTV Inferno in Beijing

Posted February. 11, 2009 09:41,   


Fireworks caused the fire that burned down the Television Culture Center tower of China Central Television (CCTV)’s new headquarters in Beijing, city authorities said yesterday.

A public security source said firecrackers were ignited at the request of CCTV to celebrate “January Full Moon” were the cause. Despite police warnings, CCTV reportedly requested a fireworks company in Hunan Province to ignite highly explosive A-grade firecrackers.

Ball-shaped A-grade firecrackers, which are used at national ceremonies, are designed to ignite more than 200 meters above ground and banned in downtown areas.

The fireworks company said it set off the firecrackers at an empty lot between the new headquarters and the Television Culture Center about 50 meters from the main building. Fire from the fireworks spread to the rooftop of the 30-story center around 8:27 p.m., resulting in a major disaster.

As the center was reduced to ashes, a five-storied wing building also burned down. The fire was put out around 2 a.m. yesterday.

The Beijing city government had banned firecrackers in 1993 but lifted the restriction in 2006, saying they are needed to create the proper mood on Lunar New Year’s Day and January Full Moon Day.

The Beijing Fire Control Bureau mobilized 85 fire engines, including those with high cranes, and 595 firefighters to the scene. They failed to control the flame early on, however, because the equipment failed to reach the top of the 30-story building.

The bureau had requested the use of firefighting helicopters to the central government as 30- to 50-story buildings were built in downtown areas, but was rejected to the threat of terrorism and safety fears.

The Television Culture Center, which was to house a large broadcast hall, digital processing rooms and a hotel, was recently equipped with fire control facilities timed with the completion of its exterior. Such facilities were not available because they had not been tested, however.

The first firefighter to reach the scene and conduct rescue operations died. Seven other firemen and a construction worker were hospitalized due to respiratory injuries.