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42-Story Building Catches Fire in Changsha, China, Burning Down Within Minutes

A native of New York, Alina has a Bachelors degree in Corporate Communications from Baruch College and writes about human rights' related issues, politics, tech and society.
Published: September 16, 2022
The 42-story skyscraper caught on fire and burned down within minutes on September 16, 2022. (Image: via The Epoch Times/Screenshot from social media)

A massive fire sent flames and black smoke billowing out of a 42-story skyscraper in China’s central city of Changsha on Friday, Sept. 16. The building belongs to the country’s largest telecommunications operator, Hunan Telecom, and saw dozens of floors burnt to a crisp within 10 minutes, according to eyewitnesses. 

Following the blaze, which occurred at 3:48 p.m. local time, Changsha’s fire department said on its official Weibo account that over 280 firefighters were dispatched to the scene after multiple reports of “black smoke and strong fires blazing into the sky” were received. 

Officials added that the fire was successfully extinguished within the 720-foot building located in the city’s Furong District, and claimed that no casualties were immediately reported. Chinese authorities said in a statement that the cause of the fire is currently under investigation and that it did not receive any reports of injury. 

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Eyewitness: ‘I heard a loud explosion’

A shop owner, identified as Ms Li, was working near the building when the fire broke out. She told the Chinese-language edition of The Epoch Times that she was alarmed when she suddenly looked up and saw thick smoke coming out of the building.

“I work 10 minutes from the Telecom Building. Suddenly, all I could see was thick smoke billowing. I hope no one is injured, as that was a really bad fire. I heard the sound of a loud explosion, but wasn’t sure where it was coming from at first.”

Ms. Li said that she also heard the sound of ambulances and fire trucks rushing to the scene, and that many firefighters were sent to the area.

“As soon as the fire started, the flames grew extremely fast. It burned so rapidly that it only lasted around 10 minutes.”

‘As terrifying as a movie’

Ms. Cao, another bystander who witnessed the fire, told The Epoch Times that she was so stunned by the blaze that she initially thought it was a movie set. 

“I didn’t know the fire had started at first. It was about 4:00 p.m. and suddenly I just saw the top of the building engulfed in flames. It felt like a movie, it was really terrifying.” 

A resident of a nearby building, Ms. Cao described the fire as a “giant fireball that engulfed the entire building in minutes.” 

“Later, I saw the fireball begin descending downwards and the whole street was covered in flames,” she said, adding that, “In addition to the telecommunications personnel in the building, there were thousands of people from other companies who also work nearby.” 

Cao described how the surrounding areas had been sealed off and nearby residents were being asked to evacuate as a preventive measure. “At present, the fire has yet to be completely extinguished and firefighters are checking the interior of the building.”

“The surrounding area is all sealed off, and the shops and personnel have all been evacuated. I have to check my apartment’s power supply, and evacuate as soon as possible,” she said.

Area is ‘under martial law’

Another Changsha resident who was near the Telecom Building at the time of the fire also shared his experience with the Epoch Times. 

The man, surnamed Zhao, said he couldn’t believe how quickly the fire burnt through the whole building. “The blaze burned to the top of the building within minutes, and the fire was being flamed by strong winds. Once it started, the billboards and other plastic things could be seen falling from the top of the building and they were on fire,” he said. 

Zhao added that surrounding areas near the scene are now under martial law. “I’m right next to the building, about 200 meters away. Now it’s all sealed up, and nearby areas within the vicinity are under martial law.” 

“It’s scary, parts of the building have yet to be fully extinguished, and people could be seen trying to run out. The specifics are not clear and the entire building is now sealed off,” Zhao said, adding that “this is a big event, and the whole country knows about it.”

Other local residents told The Epoch Times that after hearing news of the fire, they tried calling friends and family that lived or worked near the Telecom Building, but said mobile phone signals had been affected, and some calls were not going through.

Built in 2000, the Telecom Building was the first skyscraper constructed in Changsha. The city of more than 8 million residents is the capital of Hunan Province.