YANGON, Myanmar-  South China News reports one person died when a fire tore through a luxury teak wood hotel in Myanmar’s main city Yangon on Thursday, destroying the iconic resort which is 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.

A reporter at the scene saw a white plastic sheet covering a body retrieved from the fire, but there was no immediate confirmation of further casualties.

 

“We are trying to identify the body,” Htay Lwin, from the Htoo Group, which owns the hotel, said.

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

Local media reported a woman from Macau was hospitalised in critical condition.

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.

Adrienne Frilot, a tourist from California who escaped the blaze, told local news site Frontier she heard no fire alarm and initially thought the hotel staff who knocked on her door for minutes were drunken guests.

“We realised that something was wrong and opened the door and we smelled the smoke and then evacuated immediately,” she told the publication.

“The staff were so helpful,” she said.

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, the report explained.

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

Guests at the hotel had been moved to other hotels in Yangon, Myanmar’s largest city which has made its mark on Southeast Asia’s tourist trail since the country emerged from full junta rule.

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

Myanmar’s reputation as one of the region’s hottest new destinations has also been battered by global censure over an army crackdown on its Rohingya population.

The Kandawgyi Palace Hotel began life in the 1930s as the site of the Rangoon Rowing Club, a popular haunt with British officers and elite expatriates.  During World War II, the two-story, red-brick building was used by the Japanese as a welfare department. A few years later, in 1948, the property became the National Biological Museum.  A life-sized replica of a tyrannosaurus in the hotel’s tropical gardens pays tributes to that period.  In 1979, the Ministry of Hotels & Tourism took over the site and converted it into a hotel, featuring 10 teak bungalows, which in 1993 were replaced by a larger lakeside building. The building that stands today was designed in the spirit of golden-teak Thai architecture, as operators Baiyoke Group of Hotels hail from Bangkok.  Later on, Kandawgyi Palace Hotel has been operated by Htoo Group of Companies until now.

Reference: http://edition.cnn.com/travel/article/road-to-asean-yangon-heritage-hotels/index.html