BEIJING: A fire at a locked poultry slaughterhouse in northeast China killed at least 113 people on Monday with several still unaccounted for, the local government and state media said, triggering online outrage at the high death toll.
The fire broke out just after dawn near Dehui in Jilin province, the provincial government said on its official microblog.
More than 300 workers were in the plant when the fire broke out, with employees reporting hearing a sudden bang and then seeing dark smoke, state news agency Xinhua added.
“About 100 workers have managed to escape from the plant whose gate was locked when the fire occurred,” Xinhua said. “The complicated interior structure of the prefabricated house in which the fire broke out and the narrow exits have added difficulties to the rescue work,” it added.
The exact number of people unaccounted for was unclear, as was the cause of the fire, Xinhua said. The Jilin government said 54 people were injured and had been rushed to hospital.
People took to social media sites to express their anger at the fire and the high death toll.
“Was this place never regularly inspected by fire safety authorities?” wrote one user on China’s popular Twitter-like service Sina Weibo.
“Senior officials need to be sacked because of this,” wrote another. Pictures carried by state media showed smoke rising from a long, low-rise building, whose roof had been almost totally burned away, with fire engines and other rescue vehicles parked in front.
Jilin is a largely agricultural province and an important grower of corn and soy beans.
China has a poor record on fire safety. Fire exits are often locked or blocked and regulations can be easily skirted by bribing corrupt officials.
A fire at a nightclub in Shenzhen, just across the border from Hong Kong, killed 44 people in 2008. A senior policeman was jailed for taking bribes to allow the unlicensed venue to remain open.
One of modern China’s worst fire disasters occurred in late 2000, when fire engulfed building workers at a discotheque in a mall in the central city of Luoyang, killing 309.