By May Thet Hnin
Two people were killed and at least one injured when a massive fire engulfed the Kandawgyi Palace Hotel at about 3:15am yesterday, gutting the landmark building located on the edge of Kandawgyi Lake in the centre of Yangon.
The cause of the fire remains unknown, but hotel officials said the blaze began on the fifth floor of the hotel, which is constructed mostly of wood.
“Since the hotel was built mainly with teak, the fire quickly engulfed the buildings”, said U Htay Lwin, a spokesman for the Htoo Group of Companies, owners of the hotel.
Kyodo News reported that they had confirmed that one of the people killed in the fire was a hotel guest visiting from Japan.
“The fire started on the 5th floor. The cause of fire is under inspection.
The body is being examined to confirm the identity. The injured person is a Chinese female guest from the Macao Special Administrative Region. She was sent to Yangon General Hospital after injuries to her waist. After we confirm the identity of the deceased, we plan to go to his or her country and will send our deepest condolences to the family”, said U Htay Lwin at a press conference held at the Yangon Zoological Garden yesterday afternoon.
Yesterday afternoon at about 3pm, firefighters found a second body in a hotel room. The nationality and gender of the person could not immediately be determined.
The fire broke out in the early morning hours, triggering a fire alarm and prompting many of the 60 hotel staffers to knock on guest’s doors and help them evacuate, said Mr. Raymond Bragg, CEO of Kandawgyi Palace Hotel.
There were a total of 141 guests registered at the time of the blaze, including 120 foreigners.
“We prioritise guest safety, and the hotel’s fire alarm belled once the fire broke out. Fire extinguishers was also used, Mr. Bragg said.
Of the hotel’s 185 rooms, 140 were burnt down. Only 40 rooms on the ground floor and first floor remain. An adjoining building and a nearby Japanese restaurant were slightly damaged, Mr. Bragg said.
The hotel is insured and the policy includes public liability coverage for guests. The evacuated guests were accommodated in nearby hotels, U Htay Lwin said.
“We provide fire protection courses to the staff every three months, which minimised the possible danger to the guests. We are cautious about the possibility of fire, as Deepavali was celebrated on 18 October and the guests might light candles”, he added.
The monetary cost of fire damage is still calculated. Police are interrogating the night-shift manager and supervisor.
Yangon Region Chief Minister U Phyo Min Thein, hluttaw representatives and officials from related departments visited the scene yesterday .
“It was a real shock to hear that fire had engulfed the hotel, which was built in 1995-1996 during Visit Myanmar Year. Most of the hotels in Yangon are of the tower type, making this hotel architecturally unique, with the charm that came with natural islands, the water and the pagoda”, said U Thet Lwin Toe, chairman of the Union of Myanmar Travel Associations.
After hundreds of firefighters battled the blaze for nearly four hours, the fire was brought under control at 6:23am, officials said. The fire was completely extinguished at 8:24am, according to the Myanmar Fire Services Department.
One fireman from the Myanmar Fire Force was injured with a head wound and sent to Yangon General Hospital. His injuries were not life-threatening, it was reported.
The main part of the hotel was built in the 1990s, but its oldest section dates back to the 1930s, when the site was used as a rowing club by British army officers.
The Htoo Group of Companies, owner of the Kandawgyi Palace Hotel for the past 12 years, is chaired by Myanmar business tycoon U Tay Za.—Reuters contributed to the report