By SU MYAT MON | FRONTIER
YANGON — At least one person has been killed and two injured in a massive fire at one of Yangon’s most iconic hotels. The fire broke out around 3:15am and quickly engulfed the Kandawgyi Palace Hotel, lighting up the city’s skyline.
A male guest from Japan was confirmed dead at the scene, while a 24-year-old woman from Macao is in a critical condition at Yangon General Hospital. She is believed to have been injured when she jumped from the hotel’s upper floors.
The Fire Services Department was called at 3:30am and despatched 80 trucks to the hotel. Firefighters battled for 3.5 hours to bring the inferno under control, with one firefighter treated for smoke inhalation.
U Htay Lwin, a spokesperson for Htoo Group, said at a midday press conference that 96 rooms were occupied with 141 guests, the majority foreign tourists. The source of the fire was still under investigation, he said.
He also said the company would take responsibility for guests’ losses due to the fire. The hotel was insured, he said, but did not provide further details.
Yangon Region Chief Minister U Phyo Min Thein inspected the hotel earlier this morning.
Attention is likely to focus on whether safety and warning systems at the hotel were adequate and working.
An American tourist who narrowly escaped the blaze told Frontier she heard no fire alarm and was woken in her room by hotel staff.
Ms Adrienne Frilot from California said she heard knocking at her door for 15 to 20 minutes but initially thought it was just a drunken guest.
“We realised that something was wrong and opened the door and we smelled the smoke and then evacuated immediately,” she told Frontier.
“There was no alarm and it just sort of sounded like there were drunken people in the hallways.
“The staff were so helpful, as soon as I stepped out of my room with my bag, someone grabbed my bag and said, ‘Turn this way,’ and we went out one by one.”
A Swedish guest related a similar experience, saying he did not hear an alarm or see evidence of a fire sprinkler system. He too was woken by staff and evacuated from the building.
However, Mr Raymond Bragg, the chief executive officer of Htoo Hospitality, said at the press conference he was at the hotel when the fire broke out and the fire alarm was activated.
Htay Lwin added that staff knocked on the doors of guestrooms as a precaution, not because the hotel fire alarm had failed. “The fire alarm was working normally,” he said.
Owned by U Tay Za’s Htoo Group, the Kandawgyi Palace Hotel was built in the early 1990s on the banks of Kandawgyi Lake in central Yangon. However, parts of the hotel date to 1934, when the site was used as a rowing club.
Developed by the Bangkok-based Baiyoke Group of Hotels, Tay Za bought the hotel in 2010 for a reported US$29 million. It has since been refurbished and expanded, and is considered one of the city’s best hotels.