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China poultry plant fire kills 119 workers

HONG KONG — Explosions and fire tore through parts of a poultry processing plant in northeast China on Monday, killing at least 119 people and injuring about 70 in one of the country's worst factory disasters in years.

Chinese news reports said many of the workers who died were hindered from leaving the factory, the Baoyuanfeng Poultry Plant, because the exits were blocked or inadequate. The plant began operations four years ago and was considered a major domestic poultry supplier.

Survivors described panic inside the burning plant, as employees unfamiliar with any fire escapes trampled and jostled one another through smoke and flames to reach exits that turned out to be locked.

"Inside and outside the workshop was glowing red, and the lighting and escape indicators were all out," one worker, Wang Xiaoyun, told the China News Service.

The disaster comes at a time of growing international concern over factory safety in Asia, after accidents that have taken more than a thousand lives. The worst was a collapse of a garment factory in Bangladesh on April 24 that killed more than 1,120.

Residents near the poultry factory in the Jilin province town of Mishazi heard blasts about 6 a.m. Parts of the plant were engulfed in flames, but it was unclear whether the fire broke out before or after the blasts, Chinese television reported.

By late in the day, the "people responsible" in the company that operates the plant had been arrested, the official Xinhua News Agency reported, but it did not identify them. The cause of the fire and the blasts remained unclear.

China poultry plant fire kills 119 workers 06/03/13 [Last modified: Tuesday, June 4, 2013 12:08am]
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