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Deadly fire nearly destroys five-star teakwood hotel in Myanmar’s Yangon, Macau woman critical

A Japanese man in his 50s, who had been staying at the lakeside hotel, died in the fire

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 19 October, 2017, 11:47am
UPDATED : Thursday, 19 October, 2017, 9:19pm

A Japanese man was killed when a fire tore through a luxury teak wood hotel in Myanmar’s largest city Yangon on Thursday, destroying an iconic resort popular with foreign visitors.

Hundreds of firefighters tried to quell the blaze, which broke out at around 3am local time, but were unable to stop the flames from consuming the lakeside Kandawgyi Palace Hotel.

An Agence France-Presse reporter at the scene saw a white plastic sheet covering a body retrieved from the fire. The victim was later identified as a middle-aged Japanese man.

“[He] was a businessman in his 50s,” said Tomoko Yoshihiro from the Japanese embassy in Yangon. Local media reported that a woman from Macau was in critical condition in hospital.

Htay Lwin from Htoo Group, which owns the hotel, said authorities were investigating what caused the inferno.

“It’s hard to say why the fire broke out, the cause is under investigation,” he said, adding about 140 guests were at the hotel when the flames erupted.

The colonial-era structure is owned by a Myanmar businessman notorious for making his fortune under the former junta.

Tay Za, a controversial tycoon who spun millions of dollars through his close military links, founded the Htoo Group, which spans construction, timber, resorts and an airline.

Locals lamented the loss of one of Yangon’s iconic buildings, which was perched on a hill by a large picturesque lake in the centre of the city.

“We’re sad that such a historic and beautiful place was completely destroyed,” a witness called Kyi Kyi said, standing near the still smouldering ruins of the building.

The oldest parts of the Kandawgyi hotel date to the 1930s when British army officers used the site as a rowing club.

Guests at the hotel had been moved to other hotels in Yangon, Myanmar’s former capital.

The bustling city has made its mark on Southeast Asia’s tourist trail since the country emerged from full junta rule in 2011.

Yet Myanmar’s status as one of the region’s hottest new destinations has been battered recently by global censure over an army crackdown on the Muslim Rohingya minority.