What do you get when you mix Lantern Festival fireworks with a penumbral (meaning barely noticeable) lunar eclipse? Mandarin Hotel conflagration! I was at my window, watching some of the most impressive fireworks I've seen in Beijing explode near the CCTV tower. Then I noticed that sparks were raining down from the hotel adjacent to the tower. I hopped on my bike and headed over to check it out, and ended up watching the building burn for hours. It was far and away the most impressive thing I've ever seen. Can't wait to check it out tomorrow, especially as the Armed Police (all of whom were abnormally chipper) wouldn't let me go back to where I left my bike. It's nearly 2 a.m. The fire appears to be out, although I still see a small glimmer.
In my haste to get photos posted last night, I skipped pre-fire images. Here's the hotel and CCTV at 6:18 p.m., viewed from Tuanjiehu Park.
The CCTV fireworks that now have been attributed as the cause of the fire. The hotel is visible to the left of the firework, and that may be a black plume of smoke visible above it.
Where it began.
Flames begin to chase down the southeast corner of the hotel.
Performers from the nearby Chaoyang Acrobatics Theatre (also fondly remembered as the Acrobatics Macrocosm) came outside with their makeup still on to observe the fire.
Now it starts to get going.
Lots of smoke… but the moon still peeks through.
Looking down the 3rd Ring Road. The CCTV tower is visible reflecting the flames.
The situation deteriorates.
Local police were on the scene more or less from the beginning, but fire engines took at least half an hour to show up, and trucks with actual ladders longer still.
Police started pushing people back at this point.
Explosions erupt from the Mandarin Oriental Hotel.
Wisely, police pushed us back under the 3rd Ring Road and over to the other side at this point. Naturally, you could feel the heat from the fire, even across the road.
After the outer layer burnt off, the inside continued to glow and smoke, with other sections of the building periodically catching fire.
Hotel, CCTV, 3rd Ring and moon.
It almost seems cruel to post this but was too funny to avoid doing so. A whole van of armed police showed up, stood in formation next to their van, did an about face and…promptly all hopped over the fence blocking them from the burning hotel. That is…
Almost all. One got stuck. Eventually he was liberated by his peers.
Fire trucks were on the scene at this point, and much of what is starting to billow up here is steam instead of smoke. Notice there are still people directly beneath the building. Beijingers (and the foreigners who live here) often seem to lack the self-preservation gene.
The charred exterior of the building became visible through a momentary clearing of smoke and steam.
Putting out a fire seems a tremendous job for this little crane and hose.
The fire was under control about three hours after it started.
Getting home was no easy task. A swath of land around the burning building was blocked off by police.