BEIJING — A fire set off by fireworks to celebrate the Lunar New Year destroyed a five-star hotel in northeast China, state media reported Thursday.
The official Xinhua New Agency said the fire gutted the hotel in Shenyang, capital of Liaoning province, before dawn Thursday. No injuries were reported.
Xinhua said firefighters had trouble dealing with the fire because their fire engines shot water up only 165 feet, while the building was 720-feet tall.
The nearby Sheraton Lido hotel was also evacuated, Reuters reported.
New Year fires are common in China, with the Beijing News saying there were more than 160 small ones in the capital alone. The most famous in recent years destroyed a hotel under construction next to state broadcaster CCTV's iconic headquarters in Beijing in 2009.
Meanwhile, Chinese leaders celebrated the Year of the Rabbit with visits to the drought-stricken north while ordinary citizens rocked city streets with cacophonous fireworks.
Worry about inflation and over-valued property markets did not dampen Beijing residents' enthusiasm for the ultimate in conspicuous consumption — fireworks that light up the sky and are gone in a puff.
"We spent over 20,000 yuan ($3,051) on fireworks and we have been setting them off for an hour and a half. We've only got one left," said 28-year-old massage parlor worker Li Yuanpeng, who gathered with friends in central Beijing.
"I hope that business will be great and that every employee will have good luck and make a lot of money."
More than 900,000 boxes of fireworks were sold in Beijing even before New Year's Eve, when Chinese gather to eat traditional food with their families before greeting midnight with fireworks that arc high into the sky.
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Premier Wen Jiabao visited a drought-stricken region of northern China's Shandong Province, near the hometown of Chinese philosopher Confucius whose ideas are garnering renewed interest from the ruling Communist Party.
Top leaders traditionally highlight an area of policy concern with their New Year's visits. Chinese president Hu Jintao also visited dry fields in northern Hebei province, drawing attention to a drought in the grain-rich plains of the north.
Wheat-growing areas in central and northern China have not seen rain for more than 100 days, raising fears of damage to the winter wheat crop.
Hu, who also heads the Communist Party and military, spent New Year's eve with a garrison near the city of Baoding.
Hu is expected to begin transferring his titles for a leadership succession in 2012, but may hope to retain influence through the military and other allies after the baton is passed.
The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.