Where: Beijing, China
February 9, 2009 : Beijing’s nearly completed Mandarin Oriental hotel, in the heart of the city’s business district, caught fire on the day of the Lantern Festival. It was the last day of the Chinese Lunar New Year Festivities, and officials from the state owned China Central Television (CCTV ) were using the new building as the backdrop for a fireworks display.
According to Beijing’s fire chief, the broadcaster did not have permission to hold such a large-scale display. In fact, its staff had been warned not to start fireworks. These were set off by computers, like the ones used for the Olympics. They went off only a dozen metres away from the building, some of them hitting the building. Since it was under construction, the sprinkler system had not been switched on. The building was a huge tourist attraction, scheduled to open later in the year. It took only half an hour for the entire structure to catch fire. It is now completely blackened and ruined. Seven people were injured and one fireman died fighting the blaze.
CCTV issued an apology, which is a rare occurrence in China. The public was very disappointed at CCTV’s role in the disaster. A local resident said about the building, “It’s like the Bird’s Nest. It has become a tourist hotspot and Beijingers are proud of it. I feel so sorry that this happened.”