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Fire ravages ancient Tibetan town in China

An overnight blaze has destroyed parts of an ancient Tibetan town in China's southwest. More than 100 wooden houses were burnt down in the town, which is a popular tourist attraction in the region.

A fire that raged for 10 hours overnight in the ancient Tibetan town of Dukezong in southwestern China has caused widespread damage, Chinese state media reported on Saturday.

More than 100 of the roughly 1,000 wooden houses in the 1,300-year-old town in Shangri-La, Yunnan province, were destroyed, media reports said. No casualties have been reported so far, with more than 2,000 residents being evacuated, according to the China News Service.

The Shangri-La county government said more than 2,000 firefighters, soldiers, police, local officials and volunteers fought the blaze, bringing it under control by around 11 a.m. local time on Saturday morning. Dry conditions and windy weather hampered efforts to put out the fire.

Dukezong, once a staging post on the South Silk Road, was one of the oldest and best-preserved Tibetan towns in the region and is known for its cobbled streets, ancient buildings and Tibetan culture. The town has undergone renovation to make it more attractive to tourists in the county, originally called Zhongdian, which was renamed Shangri-La in 2001 to promote tourism.

Shangri-La is the fictional land depicted in the 1933 novel Lost Horizon by James Hilton.

Damage to Dukezong, which means "town of the moon" in Tibetan, is expected to exceed 100 million yuan ($17 million, 12.5 million euros), according to the Chinese news portal Zhongguo Xinwen Wang.

tj/pfd (dpa, AP, AFP)