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Beijing CCTV Complex Caught Fire, One Dead

One firefighter died and six others seriously injured while battling a blaze that consumed part of China's state broadcaster's new headquarters complex in Beijing on Monday night, when the city celebrated the last day of the lunar new year by setting off fireworks.

Initial investigations blamed the fire, which lasted over six hours, on the use of fireworks against regulated specifications, according to a notice released by the Public Security Ministry.

The fire started at 8:27pm local time and was only put out around 2:00am the following morning with some 600 fire fighters deployed.

The inferno consumed the boot-shaped north tower of the new China Central Television's (CCTV) headquarters complex, a 800-million US dollars Beijing landmark designed by Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas.

The 30-storey north tower that caught fire is designated to be the Television Cultural Center, built to house the Mandarin Oriental Hotel, a theater, and a cinema. The Center, its construction commenced in 2005, is due to open next month.

As a safety precaution, the authorities evacuated temporarily some 1,000 residents living nearby the new CCTV complex, which main structure towering over 50-storey - home to the broadcasting and production units - is not affected by the fire.

In addition, the nearby line 10 subway service was also temporarily halted on Monday night.

Chinese have a long tradition in setting off fireworks during the lunar new year celebration, folklores had it that the thundering noises and sparks made by fireworks could drive away evils.

Accidental fire caused by fireworks has long been a concern and there are regulations governing the use of such explosive, such as designated spots and specific time for setting off fireworks are stipulated in local laws.

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