Share

Heater Blamed for Fire That Destroyed Ancient Chinese Town

January 18, 2014

Firefighters work to put out a fire in the ancient Tibetan village of Dukezong in Shangrri-La county, southwest China's Yunnan province on November 11, 2014. (STR/AFP/Getty Images)

BEIJING — Chinese authorities have detained a guesthouse operator whose unattended heater allegedly sparked a fire that burned for nearly 10 hours and destroyed an ancient Tibetan town in southern China, the official Xinhua News Agency said.

More than 2,000 firefighters, soldiers, police, local officials and volunteers responded to the early morning blaze on Jan. 11, which destroyed 343 houses and many historic artifacts in Dukezong, Shangri-La county's old neighborhood.

Tang Ying, operator of the Ruyi Inn guesthouse, was detained and was being investigated for allegedly causing the fire after she forgot to turn off the heater, which later set fire to a curtain, Xinhua said.

The Shangri-La government could not be reached Saturday to confirm the report.

(MORE: Beijing Air Pollution at Dangerously High Levels Again)

Strong winds caused the fire to spread quickly through the neighborhood, which had mostly wooden structures.

Local authorities have said a million-dollar fire prevention system failed to prevent the fire, with witnesses saying hydrants failed to pump out water and that fire engines were kept outside the area's narrow alleys.

Critics also have raised questions about whether fire prevention had been overlooked in the rush to develop the old town to attract tourists.

Once called Gyaitang Zong, the county surrounding Dukezong renamed itself Shangri-La in 2001, hoping to draw tourists by referencing the mythical Himalayan land described in James Hilton's 1933 novel.

In 2005, the county started to renovate its ancient Tibetan quarter of Dukezong, which dates back to more than 1,000 years and is known for its preserved cobbled streets, ancient structures and Tibetan culture.

Tourism is virtually the only industry in the traditional Tibetan region.

MORE: Wildfire Near Los Angeles Still Smoldering

Firefighters monitor the Colby fire burning for a second day on a hillside on Highway 39 in Azusa, California. (Jonathan Alcorn/Getty Images)


Featured Blogs

MATMO Approaches Taiwan Coast as Atlantic TD#2 continues Westward

By Dr. Jeff Masters
July 22, 2014

Warmest Days of the Year for the U.S.

By Christopher C. Burt
July 9, 2014

NOAA recently produced an interesting map showing when the hottest day of the year is likely to occur in the contiguous U.S. Complimenting this map is one produced by Brian Brettschneider of Borealis Scientific, LLC, which illustrates the date of summer’s midpoint (peak of summer average temperatures) which was reproduced in my blog posted last August. Brian has also produced maps of such for the Fall, Winter and Spring seasons. There is also some other great material from Brian herein.

Live Blog: Tracking Hurricane Arthur as it Approaches North Carolina Coast

By Shaun Tanner
July 3, 2014

This is a live blog set up to provide the latest coverage on Hurricane Arthur as it threatens the North Carolina Coast. Check back often to see what the latest is with Arthur. The most recent updates are at the top.

Tropical Terminology

By Stu Ostro
June 30, 2014

Here is some basic, fundamental terminology related to tropical cyclones. Rather than a comprehensive and/or technical glossary, this represents the essence of the meaning & importance of some key, frequently used terms.

2013-14 - An Interesting Winter From A to Z

By Tom Niziol
May 15, 2014

It was a very interesting winter across a good part of the nation from the Rockies through the Plains to the Northeast. Let's break down the most significant winter storms on a month by month basis.

What the 5th IPCC Assessment Doesn't Include

By Angela Fritz
September 27, 2013

Melting permafrost has the potential to release an additional 1.5 trillion tons of carbon into the atmosphere, and could increase our global average temperature by 1.5°F in addition to our day-to-day human emissions. However, this effect is not included in the IPCC report issued Friday morning, which means the estimates of how Earth's climate will change are likely on the conservative side.