Inferno kills 119 at China poultry farm

Jun 04, 2013, 07:22 IST | Agencies

Workers were trapped inside the plant after the entrance was locked

At least 119 people have died after a fire at a poultry slaughterhouse broke out in a Chinese city and trapped the workers inside. More than 50 people were injured in the fire at the processing plant in Dehui city in the province of Jilin, northeast China. Firefighting officials said the blaze was started by an ammonia leak, which is kept under pressure for the cooling system, in the meat processing plant, owned by Jilin Baoyuanfeng Poultry.

Engulfed in flames: Plumes of black smoke rise from Baoyuan poultry plant that caught fire at Dehui, China. Officials say it is the country’s worst blaze in 12 years. Pic/AFP

An electrical fault was also blamed for the fire and local media said that nearly all the slaughterhouse doors had been locked, trapping dozens of workers inside. Firefighters extinguished most of the blaze, allowing search teams to recover the bodies of victims. Officials said the death count was likely to rise. About 350 people were working in the plant when it caught fire.According to reports, owing to the plant’s ‘complicated interior structure’, workers struggled to escape. One employee said that the lights went out soon after the fire started, which caused panic among the workers as they looked for an exit.

Recounting the horror
Wang Fengya said: “When I finally ran out and looked back at the plant, I saw high flames.” A second unnamed survivor said: “I escaped by climbing out of a window. There was a huge cloud of black smoke coming down the corridor. It was burning hot. It engulfed me. As soon as I was outside I collapsed unconscious.”

“The fire took only 3 minutes to burn through the entire workshop and less than 30 workers managed to escape,” said another unnamed witness.

The fire was one of the deadliest in the country in recent years. In 2000, 309 people died after a nightclub caught fire in in Luoyang, Henan province.

Jason Yan, technical director of the US Grains Council in Beijing, said that safety considerations were still not regarded as important as plant layouts which are designed to maximise production and energy efficiency.

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