YANGON, Myanmar – A fire gutted a luxury teakwood hotel popular with foreigners in Myanmar’s biggest city of Yangon before dawn Thursday, causing one death.
Firefighters who carried a body out of the Kandawgyi Palace Hotel said the victim was male. Local media reported a woman from Macau was hospitalized in critical condition.
Photos and video posted online show the spectacular blaze racing through the traditional Burmese-style building.
Smoke was still rising from the remains of the lakeside hotel hours after daybreak and dozens of firefighters were at the site.
“I’ll never forget looking up and seeing the night sky turned red,” said American David Powers, who escaped the blaze with his wife, 4-year-old daughter and their passports, phones and wallets.
“The embers floating through the sky looked like hellish snowflakes,” he said. “Once we got across the street we could really see how bad the fire was.”
Powers, who works in Bangkok and is from South Carolina, said there was no alarm and he initially thought the sounds of shouting and footsteps outside the family’s room were drunken hotel guests.
Firefighter Kyaw Kyaw said the blaze started about 3 a.m. and may have been caused by an electrical fault. Exploding gas cylinders hastened its spread, he said.
Kyaw Kyaw said one firefighter suffered from smoke inhalation.
The teak upper floors of the hotel were destroyed and the blaze also appeared to have swept through the cement bottom two floors.
The hotel was built in the early 1990s, incorporating a colonial era British rowing club. It is currently owned by the Htoo Group, a conglomerate controlled by Tay Za, a businessman who prospered under Myanmar’s former military government.
Adrienne Frilot, a tourist from California, told local news site Frontier that she initially thought the hotel staff who knocked on her door for minutes were drunken guests.
“We realized 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.