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Firefighter dies after battling luxury hotel blaze in Beijing

ONE of seven injured firefighters died early this morning after an unfinished luxury hotel next door to China Central Television's landmark headquarters in downtown Beijing was engulfed in flames last night after it was showered with sparks from fireworks set off during a Lantern Festival celebration.

Zhang Jianyong, 30, died about 1:30am in hospital after getting injured while fighting the fire at the Mandarin Oriental hotel. He was an officer with Hongmiao Fire Department.

More than 20 other people were injured in the fire. A total of 595 firefighters and 85 fire engines rushed to the scene.

Service on the Number 10 subway resumed at 8am today after being temporarily halted last night.

The fire was put out about 2am today. More than 200 firefighters are still inside the 44-story building to ensure there are no small fires still burning.

The hotel caught fire shortly before 9pm as the skies above the Chinese capital were filled with exploding fireworks, part of celebrations for the Lantern Festival that marks the traditional end of the Lunar New Year holiday.

The entire hotel building was engulfed in flames, sending off huge plumes of black smoke and showering the ground below with embers.

Witness Li Jian said he saw smoke rising from the 44-story hotel's roof shortly after a huge burst of fireworks showered it with sparks, though it was not clear if they started the blaze. "Smoke came out for a little while, but then it just started burning," he said.

Police blocked traffic to the area on the east Third Ring Road, one of several major highways that encircle the capital. More than 1,000 people were evacuated.

Snow-like ashes fell as far as 1 kilometer from the building.

The hotel was used during the Olympics, but it wasn't scheduled for formal opening until the middle of this year. Witnesses said some lights had been on in the hotel before the fire.

The 241-room luxury facility, which is in the heart of the capital's central business district, was intended to be Mandarin Oriental's flagship property in China. It lies on the northern edge of a complex that also includes CCTV's imposing Z-shaped headquarters, a major prestige project for the city.

Both buildings were designed by Rotterdam, Netherlands, architects Rem Koolhaas and Ole Scheeren for the firm OMA. And both were nearing the end of construction.

The hotel building was also designed to house a visitors center, a theater and exhibition spaces.

Erik Amir, a senior architect at OMA, said the fire had destroyed years of hard work.

Beijing usually tightly restricts the use of fireworks in the downtown area. But massive fireworks barrages exploded between buildings and in open spaces throughout the city last night.


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