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China TV centre 'safe' after fire

By Michael Bristow
BBC News, Beijing

The CCTV building, left, next to the charred remains of the hotel tower on the right, in Beijing
The charred hotel tower is visible to the right of the CCTV building

A landmark building in central Beijing will not have to be pulled down following a fire earlier this year, according to the architect.

The hotel, part of the new headquarters for China's national broadcaster, CCTV, was severely damaged in a blaze started by fireworks.

Rumours suggested the fire could have undermined the whole 5bn yuan ($730m, £450m) broadcast centre project.

But the man in charge of the scheme said the luxury hotel can be repaired.

Unapproved fireworks

The project is being built by the Office for Metropolitan Architecture, based in the Netherlands, for China Central Television (CCTV).

It consists of two main buildings, one housing the hotel, the other will become CCTV's new production and broadcast centre.

Firefighters try to put out the fire at the unfinished Mandarin Hotel in Beijing
The fireworks party at CCTV quickly got out of control

"The preliminary findings are that the building can be repaired," said architect Ole Scheeren, the building project's leader.

"It's still intact and safe. There will mainly be a repair effort, but not a complete rebuilding."

He also said rumours that the hotel shared the same foundations as the broadcast centre were false.

"I think it's very important to dispel this kind of story that the two buildings are connected and one depends on the other. That's absolutely not true," he said.

The 241-room hotel, which was due to be run by the Mandarin Oriental group, was set alight by an unapproved fireworks display in February.

CCTV had hired a company to set off hundreds of top -grade fireworks outside the hotel to mark the end of the Chinese New Year.

Shows using these types of fireworks are banned in Beijing without police approval. CCTV did not get approval, and even ignored official warnings to cancel the show.

The fire lit up the night sky over Beijing and one firefighter died trying to put it out.

Twelve people, including the former head of CCTV's construction office, were arrested in connection with the fire.

The project was due to be completed by 2010.



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