Two Dead in Kandawgyi Palace Hotel Fire

By Htun Htun 19 October 2017

YANGON — Two people were killed and another two were injured in a fire that gutted the Kandawgyi Palace Hotel in central Yangon on Thursday morning.

The body of a Japanese businessman in his sixties was identified by the Japanese Embassy on Thursday and the body of a second person, found on the hotel’s fifth floor, was sent to Yangon Hospital for a post-mortem, said U Htay Lwin, spokesperson of Htoo Group of Companies which operates the hotel.

“We are still identifying the nationality of the victim. We’ll check CCTV records and publish the findings. But for the time being, we don’t know the cause of the fire,” he said.

A fire broke out on the fifth floor of the hotel around 3 a.m. on Thursday morning, and a Chinese woman from Macao jumped from the 3rd floor of the hotel to escape the fire, causing hip injuries.

Firefighter U Kyaw Swar Lin sustained a head injury after a wooden beam fell on him and broke apart his helmet. He was then rushed to Yangon People’s Hospital and underwent an emergency operation.

A fire at Kandawgyi Palace Hotel seen across Kandawgyi Lake in Central Yangon. (Photo: Myo Min Soe/ The Irrawaddy)

After police questioned managers U Thiha and U Kyaw Min Soe of the hotel, they were charged with causing accidental death under Article 304 (a) of the Penal Code and causing the fire, according to U Hla Htay, lawmaker representing Mingalar Taung Nyunt Township in the Yangon regional parliament.

“The hotel was already on fire when I heard two blasts. I was at the scene around 3.30 a.m. It was an intense blaze, then I heard blasts of something like gas cylinders and oil tanks,” said a witness who lives at an apartment near the hotel.

According to U Htay Lwin, the hotel has fire insurance with Myanma Insurance, and also has insurance for guests at a foreign insurance company.

At the time of the outbreak, 141 guests—most of them foreigners—were lodging at the hotel. Guests were transferred to the Chatrium Hotel and Rose Garden Hotel.

The fire damaged about 80 percent of the hotel, and the company is yet to calculate financial loss, said U Htay Lwin.

Firefighters remove a body from the Kandawgyi Palace Hotel. (Photo: Wai Hnin Htut/ The Irrawaddy)

The location of the Kandawgyi Palace Hotel is said, according to the hotel’s website, to be the place famous Mon Queen Shin Saw Bu took her last breathe. The oldest parts of the existing building were built during the era of British Burma and became the exclusive “Boat Club” in 1934, where it served as home to the European community in what was then known as Rangoon.

The place became the site of the Rangoon Rowing Club, a popular haunt with British officers and elite expatriates in the 1930s. During World War II, the two-story, red-brick building was used by the Japanese as a welfare department. In 1948, the property became the National Biological Museum and in 1979, the Ministry of Hotels and Tourism took over the site and converted it into a hotel, featuring 10 teak bungalows, which in 1993 were replaced by a larger lakeside building.

The building that was burnt down on Thursday morning was built in the design of golden-teak Thai architecture, as operators Baiyoke Group of Hotels hail from Bangkok, according to the Kandawgyi Palace Hotel. It has been operated by Htoo Group of Companies under his hospitality business until now.

Firefighters fight a blaze at Kandawgyi Palace Hotel. (Photo: Myo Min Soe/ The Irrawaddy)