Fire ravages ancient Tibetan town

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Media captionFootage showed dozens of buildings ablaze in the ancient town

Fire has severely damaged an ancient Tibetan town in south-western China.

Nearly 300 mostly wooden houses were destroyed in the blaze in Dukezong in Shangri-La county, in Yunnan province.

Officials say more than 2,600 people have lost their homes in the town, which dates back 1,300 years and is popular with tourists.

The blaze, which raged for nearly 10 hours, was put out by 2,000 firefighters, police and volunteers. No fatalities have been reported.

The fire, which broke out at about 01:30 local time on Saturday, destroyed about 242 houses and shops in Dukezong, Xinhua news agency reported.

The damage was estimated to be worth 100m yuan ($16m, £10m), state TV reports.

Image copyright AP
Image caption The 10-hour inferno razed the ancient Tibetan town
Image copyright AFP
Image caption Labyrinthine streets of wooden houses meant the fire spread rapidly
Image copyright AFP
Image caption More than 2,000 people were involved in the fire fighting effort
Image copyright Reuters
Image caption State media reports the blaze was started accidentally at a guesthouse

The blaze started in a guesthouse and was ruled accidental, according to state media citing local officials.

Resident He Yu said she woke to loud bangs.

"The fire was huge. The wind was blowing hard, and the air was dry... it kept burning, and the firefighters were there, but there was little they could do because they could not get the fire engines onto the old town's narrow streets," she told The Associated Press.

The county where Dukezong is located has enjoyed an increase in tourist revenue since changing its name to Shangri-La in 2001 after the make-believe Himalayan land of James Hilton's novel.

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