Sri Lanka president evacuated from luxury hotel fire: Official

Maithripala Sirisena arriving at a summit in London on May 12, 2016
Maithripala Sirisena arriving at a summit in London on May 12, 2016PHOTO: REUTERS

COLOMBO (AFP) - Sri Lanka's President Maithripala Sirisena was evacuated on Wednesday night from a fire at a luxury beach hotel minutes after presiding over its opening ceremony, an official said.

Sparks from fireworks hit a straw-roofed beach hut at the 300-room Shangri-La following the ribbon-cutting and triggered the fire at the hotel in Hambantota in the country's deep south, president's spokesman Dharmasri Bandara said.

"The president had just walked back to the hotel while the fireworks display was still on," Bandara told AFP.

"He immediately left the hotel, but a fire truck from the President's convoy stayed back to put out the fire."

A spokesman for the hotel, which is located about 240km south of the capital Colombo, said that the president was not evacuated, but stayed on for a pre-arranged private dinner instead.

Local journalist Easwaran Rutnam, who was covering the hotel's opening, said the President was about 50m from the hut that was gutted by the fire.

"It took about an hour for the fire to be extinguished, but it did not spread to the main hotel building," Rutnam told AFP. He said the President was seen being escorted out of the premises.

A local police officer said no one was injured during the incident, but an investigation had been launched.

There had been several breaches of security at functions attended by President Sirisena who came to power in January last year.

He has dispensed with much of the tight security accorded to his predecessors.