Dehui poultry plant fire: Locked exits 'blocked escape'

A fire at a poultry processing plant in China has killed at least 119 people, officials say. The fire broke out at a slaughterhouse in Dehui in Jilin province early on Monday.

Accounts speak of explosions prior to the fire, which caused panic and a crush of workers trying to escape. Most exits were said to be locked. A labour activist told the BBC it was the worst factory fire in living memory. The fire is now said to have been mostly put out and bodies are being recovered.

President Xi Jinping, who is on a visit to the Americas, ordered every effort to go into the rescue operation and treatment of survivors, adding that the investigation into the cause of the accident would be vigorous.

Sources including the provincial fire department suggest there may have been an ammonia leak which either caused the fire or made fighting the blaze more hazardous. Other reports speak of an electrical fault.

About 100 workers had managed to escape from the Baoyuan plant, Xinhua said, adding that the "complicated interior structure" of the building and narrow exits had made rescue work more difficult. It said the plant's front gate was locked when the blaze began, and other official media reports said there was only one unlocked door in the whole building.

Firefighters have still not completed the job of recovering bodies from the building, meaning the death toll may rise yet further, say correspondents.

Some 60 injured people have been sent to hospital, but the severity of their injuries remains unclear. State media quoted hospital staff as saying that some wounded were being treated for inhalation of toxic gases such as ammonia while others had burns of varying degrees. Pictures from the scene showed the roof mostly burned away to reveal blackened, twisted girders.

The provincial government said it sent more than 500 firefighters and at least 270 doctors and nurses to the scene, evacuating an area nearby that is home to 3,000 people as a precaution, reported Reuters news agency. Source: BBC

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