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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 22 June 2018

One killed as Yangon blaze guts historic teak wood hotel

The colonial-era structure is owned by a Myanmar businessman notorious for making his fortune under the former junta

Firefighters work at the scene of a fire at the Kandawgyi Palace Hotel in Yangon on October 19, 2017. Ye Aung Thu / AFP
Firefighters work at the scene of a fire at the Kandawgyi Palace Hotel in Yangon on October 19, 2017. Ye Aung Thu / AFP

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 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 body was retrieved from the fire, but there was no immediate confirmation of further casualties.

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

"It's hard to say why the fire broke out, the cause is under investigation."

He added that around 140 guests were at the hotel when the inferno started.

The colonial-era structure is owned by a Myanmar businessman notorious for making his fortune under the former junta.

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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.

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.

"We're sad that such a historic and beautiful place was completely destroyed," a witness named Kyi Kyi said, standing near the still smouldering 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 South-east 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.