Chinese New Year Festivities Bring Rash of Fires

Participants perform a fire dragon dance at a temple fair celebrating Chinese Lunar New Year in Beijing February 6, 2011. The Lunar New Year began on February 3 and marks the start of the Year of the Rabbit, according to the Chinese zodiac. REUTERS/Grace

China's state media say the country suffered almost 6,000 fires in the first 32 hours of the annual spring festival.

The Ministry of Public Security was quoted Monday saying many of the fires were caused by the misuse of fireworks during the lunar new year celebration. The problem was made worse by dry conditions in northern and central China, where some provinces are suffering their worst drought in 60 years.

The official Xinhua news agency said a 1,000-year-old building is believed to have been destroyed in a fire at a Buddhist temple in Fuzhou, the capital of east China's Fujian province.

Local authorities confirmed that the fire engulfed the grand hall and one of the wooden chambers of the Fahai Temple in downtown Fuzhou early Monday.

It was not immediately clear whether the fire was started by fireworks. No casualties were reported.

Fahai Temple was built in 945 and houses a large number of ancient Buddhist scriptures that are considered national treasures.

Xinhua said two people were killed and 223 were injured by fires in Beijing during the first day and a half of the festival, which began Wednesday.

Officials say almost 7,500 fires were reported during the entire seven-day festival a year ago