Saturday, January 11, 2014

Huge Fire Destroys Hundreds of Buildings in Ancient Tibetan Town - Wooden Structures Fed The Inferno

Tibetan town of Dukezong burns on 11 January 2014.
A cellphone photo of  Dukezong burning (Xinhua)
January 11, 2014 - Flames devoured much of Dukezong, a 1,300 year old Tibetan town. The blazing inferno started around 1:30 a.m. on Saturday and quickly consumed old wooden buildings for about 10 hours.

More that 2,000 people were evacuated. No injuries have been reported. Dukezong, a popular tourist destination, is in the southwestern Chinese province Yunnan (see map), which is better known to Westerners as Shangri-la.

"Hundreds of buildings, including one with monument status dating to the early 17th century, were destroyed in the fire which began early yesterday in Dukezong Ancient Town," South China Morning Post reported. "Locals estimated that more than 70 per cent of Dukezong was destroyed, including the town's central Sifang Street and a white Tibetan prayer tower."

"According to local officials, more than 240 houses have been destroyed by the blaze, and at least two thousand people evacuated." reports CCTV. "Initial investigation has ruled out arson. The fire in Dukezong town of the resort county of Shangri-La broke out at around half past one on Saturday morning.... Most of the structures there are made of wood, making it easier for the fire to spread and difficult for fire-fighting operations."  More below video...

Dukezong means "the town of moon" in Tibetan and was "an important town on the South Silk Road, also known as the Ancient Road of Tea and Horse. It is now one of the most renowned resorts in Shangri-la, known for its well-preserved ancient Tibetan dwellings," according to Xinhua news agency.

"Shangri-La County is a primarily Tibetan county in northwestern Yunnan province, southwest China and is the location of the seat of the Dêqên Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture. The county was formerly called Zhongdian County but was renamed in 2001 after the fictional land of Shangri-La in the 1933 James Hilton novel Lost Horizon, in an effort to promote tourism in the area. The local Tibetan population previously referred to it by the name Gyalthang, which is the Tibetan name for Jiantang Town, the county seat." Source: Journeys International website. (Hilton's novel was also made into a movie with the same title.)