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Fire Hits New High Rise in Central Beijing


A newly-constructed building in central Beijing burst into flames Monday night, as revelers set off a seemingly endless series of fireworks to celebrate the end of the Lunar New Year holiday period.

A fire at a major new building in the heart of Beijing is rare. But on a day like Monday, when people set off fireworks non-stop to celebrate a holiday known as the Lantern Festival, Beijing resident Lauren Lindheimer, didn't quite know at first what she was seeing.

"We were in our apartment, and our master bedroom faces the CCTV tower. At about 9:30, my husband looked out the window and it looked like there were LED lights running up the side of the building," said Lindheimer.

She said it took her a few minutes to realize they were actually looking at flames.

"We have some good binoculars, and we pulled them out. And then we started to watch it, and within about half an hour, it looked like an inferno," she added. "That's when we got on Facebook and started to find out if any other people were seeing anything. And we have some friends who live in the building even closer, and they told us it was the Mandarin Oriental [hotel]."

The Mandarin Oriental hotel was just north of the headquarters for China Central Television, an architecturally iconic building. The hotel was due to open this year. The CCTV tower is reportedly unharmed.

Several hours after the fire began, official Chinese TV reported the incident, but said the fire was completely under control. Eyewitnesses at the scene contradicted this account, though, saying they still saw fire in several of the building's top floors.

There is no immediate official word as to whether the fire was due to accidental or intentional causes

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