When the fire broke out on February 17, dramatic footage of flames shooting from the golden roof of the temple was circulated widely, with Tibetans heard praying and weeping in the background. But Chinese authorities took several hours to confirm the fire, and then downplayed the incident. State media reports a few days later stated that the fire was quickly extinguished, that statues and relics were intact, and that there were no casualties.
A leaked internal document indicated that the authorities took around 30 minutes to respond to the fire, although it is in the heart of the central Barkhor area of Tibet’s historic and cultural capital, and China told the UNESCO World Heritage Committee in December (2017) it has a 24-hour “fire and security brigade” stationed at the Jokhang. In a report to the UNESCO World Heritage Committee in December (2017), the Chinese authorities specified that the Jokhang Temple has its own “fire brigade responsible for firefighting and security … with staff on duty 24 hours … responsible for the safety and protection of cultural relics.”
The Jokhang (also known as the Tsuglakhang) Temple is of unique architectural, cultural and religious significance, and the wooden core of the main building, built by Newari craftsmen from the Kathmandu valley in the seventh century, has the highest value in heritage terms. This is particularly the case because apart from some contents of the Jowo Chapel, almost none of the original contents of the temple survived the Chinese Cultural Revolution. While Chinese official statements issued after the fire sought to provide reassurance that the cultural relics had not been damaged, some Tibetans have voiced fears about the possibility that the authorities may be patching up the core structure of the temple, the most important element, with cement – which experts on Tibet’s heritage would regard as disastrous.[Source]