The fire that destroyed an ancient Tibetan village in southwestern China's Shangri-La County on the weekend was caused by an electrical malfunction in an inn, authorities said.

A short circuit early Saturday morning ignited some curtains in the Ruyi inn, whose proprietor "was making careless use" of the electrical network, authorities cited Tuesday by the official Xinhua news agency said.

About 300 houses and businesses in the legendary village of Dukezong, in Yunnan province, were gutted by the fire, which did not injure anyone but destroyed an important cultural and religious zone, Xinhua said.

Aside from the extensive damage to local properties, numerous cultural relics such as "thangkas" (tapestries) and other Tibetan works of great value were destroyed.

Some 2,000 firefighters, soldiers and volunteers took nine hours to extinguish the blaze and authorities had to evacuate 2,400 of the town's 3,000 permanent residents.

Dukezong, whose name means "city of the moon" in Tibetan, was an important tourist attraction in Shangri-La County. It used to be known as Zhongdian but changed its name in the past decade to attract more visitors.

With a population consisting of assorted ethnic minorities, including the Lisu, the Yi and the Naxi, the city was built 1,300 years ago and to this day some of the most ancient homes of those ethnicities are still standing.

Authorities have opened an investigation into the devastating fire, though for now the possibility of arson has been dismissed.

The blaze is the second one to damage a significant Tibetan historical site recently after last week an important Buddhist monastery burned down in Sichuan province. EFE