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11 lives lost in Zhejiang hotel blaze
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At least 11 people have died following a fire on Friday at a hotel in Yiwu, Zhejiang province.

The fire brigade was alerted to the blaze at the suburban Chengshuai Hotel at 1:50 am.

Firefighters rescued 23 people from the hotel, 15 of whom required hospital treatment. 11 of those later died, according to a report by the Xinhua News Agency.

There is currently no information regarding the total number of people in the hotel at the time of the fire, which took an hour to extinguish.

Local officials, including Yiwu Party Secretary Wu Weirong and Mayor He Meihua, arrived on the scene soon after the fire was reported to help coordinate the rescue effort.

The cause of the blaze is under investigation, Xinhua said.

The Ministry of Public Security said on Thursday that 10,360 fires were reported across the country during the Lunar New Year holiday, which claimed the lives of 59 people and caused economic losses of 23.8 million yuan (US$3.3 million).

Some 23,000 firefighters were dispatched to the fires, helping to save 7,741 lives, the ministry said.

In Beijing alone, there were 472 fires during the holiday, about three times as many as over the same period last year.

According to the Beijing Morning Post, about a third of the fires were caused by fireworks.

On New Year's Eve, 246 fires broke out in the capital, 85 of which were caused by fireworks, the newspaper reported.

The ministry said there were no fires at major public venues in Beijing, where 2,500 firefighters and 270 vehicles had been stationed over the seven-day holiday.

Meanwhile, in response to the fire at the historic gate of Namdaemun in Seoul on Sunday, the State Administration of Cultural Heritage (SACH) on Thursday issued an urgent notice urging cultural authorities to be alert to potential fire risks.

The SACH received seven reports of fires that damaged cultural relics last year, four of which involved important artifacts protected at the national level, the notice on the SACH's website said.

(China Daily February 16, 2008)

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