Fire destroys Tibetan town in China

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Sunday, January 12, 2014


BEIJING -- A fire that raged for nearly 10 hours razed an ancient Tibetan town in southwest China that's popular with tourists, burning down hundreds of buildings after fire engines failed to get onto the narrow streets, state media and witnesses said.

The fire broke out at about 1:30 a.m. Saturday in the ancient Tibetan quarter of Dukezong, which dates back more than 1,000 years and is known for its preserved cobbled streets, ancient structures and Tibetan culture. Dukezong is part of scenic Shangri-La county in Deqen prefecture.

The fire destroyed about 242 houses and shops in Dukezong, dislocated more than 2,600 people, and torched many historic artifacts, the official Xinhua News Agency said.

There was no immediate report of any casualties, and the cause of the fire was not yet known. State media, citing local authorities, said the blaze started in a guesthouse and was ruled accidental.

With fire engines kept out, local residents lined up to pass buckets of water to combat the fire, the Deqen prefecture government said.

More than 2,000 firefighters, soldiers, police, local officials and volunteers responded to the blaze and brought it under control at around 11 a.m., the Shangri-La county government said.

Once called Gyaitang Zong, the county renamed itself Shangri-La in 2001, hoping to draw tourists by the reference to the mythical Himalayan land described in James Hilton's 1933 novel. Like hundreds of Chinese cities and counties, Shangri-La renovated its old neighborhood, Dukezong, turning it into a tourist attraction filled with shops and guesthouses. (AP)

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