Fire at 1,000-year-old temple in China

IANS, Feb 7, 2011

Beijing, China -- A fire in a 1,000-year-old temple in China is believed to have destroyed a building of the temple.

The Fahai Temple, built in 945 and located in Fuzhou, the capital of east China's Fujian province, houses a large number of ancient Buddhist scriptures that are recognised as national treasures, Xinhua reported Monday.

The fire prevention arm of Fuzhou's public security bureau pressed into service 21 fire engines and 147 firefighters to the scene, and the flames were put out at 4:11 a.m., Xinhua quoted a spokesman of the bureau as saying.

No casualties were reported and all the temple's cultural relics were unharmed, the spokesman added.

But photos of the scene posted online showed scarlet flames lighting up the night sky and engulfing the temple's grand hall. 'I smelt an acrid smell and woke up,' said an Internet user who posted three photos at under the name 'Pleasant Afternoon'.

The photos showed how the 1,000-year-old hall was destroyed by the flames. In the third photo, the hall had disappeared.

'Only a few charred pillars remained standing after the fire was put out,' said 'Pleasant Afternoon', who took the pictures from his apartment in a high-rise overlooking the temple.

Local authorities have confirmed that the fire engulfed the grand hall and one of the wooden chambers of the Fahai Temple in downtown Fuzhou at 3:12 a.m. It burnt for an hour, but the authorities are yet to assess the damage.

Though the fire bureau spokesman said the cause of the fire was still under investigation, Internet users widely speculated that the blaze was started by fireworks.

The posting by 'Pleasant Afternoon' was followed by dozens of comments bombarding fireworks. 'Fireworks should be banned in downtown areas,' many comments read.

The debate over whether festive explosives should be allowed has continued for at least two decades in China. Many big cities, including Beijing, banned fireworks in the mid-1990s, but were later forced to lift the ban by enthusiasts who claimed fireworks were an 'inalienable part of Chinese culture'.