Fire damages 1,000-year-old Buddhist temple in China

Fire engulfed the grand hall, one of the wooden chambers of the Fahai Temple in downtown Fuzhou, capital of Fujian province, in the early hours, state-run Xinhua news agency quoted local officials as saying.

The fire was put off after an hour, but the damage is yet to be assessed, they said.
The Fahai Temple was built in 945 and houses a large number of ancient Buddhist scriptures that are recognised as national treasures.

The fire prevention arm of Fuzhou's public security bureau sent 21 fire engines and 147 firefighters to the scene, a spokesman of the bureau said.

He said no casualties were reported and all the temple's cultural relics were unharmed. But photos of the scene posted online showed scarlet flames lighting up the night sky and licking up the temple's grand hall.

"I smelt an acrid smell and woke up," said an Internet user who posted three photos at qq.com under the name 'Pleasant Afternoon.'

"Only a few charred pillars remained standing after the fire was put out," said "Pleasant Afternoon", who took the pictures from his apartment in a high-rise overlooking the temple.

Though the fire bureau spokesman said the cause of the fire was still under investigation, Internet users have speculated that the blaze was started by fireworks and many micro bloggers even called for ban on fire works being lit all over the country to celebrate the Chinese new year.

The debate over whether festive explosives should be allowed has continued for at least two decades in China.Many big cities, including Beijing, banned fireworks in the mid 1990s, but were later forced to lift the ban by enthusiasts who claimed fireworks were an "inalienable part of Chinese culture."

About 5,945 fire accidents were reported since February 2, the beginning of the New Year. Yesterday six people were killed and three others injured while battling forest fires set off by fireworks in Zhejiang province's Chun'an county.

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