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CCTV official detained over massive fire
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Beijing police have detained an official of China Central Television over Monday night's massive fire that caused one death and seven injuries in a building which housed part of its new headquarters, the municipal public security bureau confirmed Thursday.

The detained man, Xu Wei, born in 1959, was taken to a police station near CCTV's new site in eastern Beijing's central business district after flames engulfed a 30-story building at 8:27 p.m. Monday, a bureau spokesman told Xinhua.

Xu, who is in charge of the new site's construction, was suspected of having been responsible for starting the fire by using banned fireworks, the spokesman said.

Xu is a native of Beijing and began working at CCTV in 1983.

He is among 12 people detained so far. The other 11 included three CCTV workers and eight people CCTV hired from a fireworks company in central Hunan Province to set off the explosives, the spokesman said.

Monday was the traditional Lantern Festival and the last day fireworks were allowed in downtown Beijing as it marked the ending of this year's Chinese New Year celebration period. CCTV workers at the new site said they all received a text message inviting them to a grand fireworks display at 8 p.m. outside the nearly-completed building.

When flames claimed the building that houses some CCTV facilities as well as the then-unopened Mandarin Oriental Hotel, the eight fireworks operators fled, leaving 21 packs of extra large fireworks and equipment for lighting the explosives.

Police caught the eight in Langfang, a tiny city on the Beijing-Hebei border Tuesday.

A Beijing government spokesman said the fireworks they had set off were extremely dangerous and needed approval before being allowed in downtown Beijing.

He alleged that CCTV had not got approval and further alleged that its workers ignored policemen's warnings that night.

A source close to CCTV, who refused to be named, said fireworks had been set off at the iconic new tower since 2007.

He said CCTV spent about 1 million yuan (146,000 U.S. dollars) on the festive explosives this year.

CCTV apologized Tuesday for the "great loss" and traffic congestion caused by the lethal blaze. The fire paralyzed traffic in eastern Beijing and led to the evacuation of 626 residents. One firefighter died from breathing toxic fumes and seven people were taken to hospital, including six firemen and one construction worker.

CCTV did not say if the fire would postpone the inauguration of the new site, originally slated for October.

The burnt building and CCTV's main tower were both designed by Rem Koolhaas's Rotterdam-based Office for Metroplitan Architecture. Total investment is about 5 billion yuan.

(Xinhua News Agency February 12, 2009)

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