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China Slaughterhouse Fire Survivors Recall Incident

posted 3 Jun 2013, 10:51 by Sam Mbale   [ updated 3 Jun 2013, 10:53 ]

Survivors of Chinese slaughterhouse fire recall how they escaped the blaze which has killed at least 119 people.

DEHUI, JILIN PROVINCE, NORTH EAST CHINA (JUNE 3, 2013) CHINA CENTRAL TELEVISION - Survivors of a blaze at a locked poultry slaughterhouse in northeast Chinawhich killed at least 119 people on Monday (June 3) recalled how they were able to escape the deadly fire.

The fire broke out just after dawn near Dehui in Jilin province. The provincial government said it sent more than 500 fire-fighters and more than 270 doctors and nurses to the scene, evacuating 3,000 nearby residents as a precaution.

Several people were still unaccounted for, officials and state media said, triggering online outrage in a country with a grim record on fire safety.

"I didn't remember anything. I was totally shocked. I tried to run out at the moment I saw the fire. It was all smoke there," said one survivor Jiao.

The death toll prompted President Xi Jinping, on a visit to Latin America and theUnited States, to issue instructions to care for the injured and vigourously investigate the cause of the disaster, holding accountable according to law all found to be responsible, the television reported.

Premier Li Keqiang called on fire-fighters and other emergency workers to proceed urgently to save lives as the top priority, CCTV said.

Local police said ammonia gas leaks might have caused the explosions, prompting the evacuation of residents, the China News Service reported.

More than 300 workers were in the plant at the time, with employees reporting hearing the bang and then seeing smoke, state news agency Xinhua said.

"I thought there was an earthquake when I saw people rushing out. I asked them what happened, and joined them to run out, but people pushed and fell down at the gate. We had to crawl out from the factory," said one survivor Liu.

The exact number of people missing was unclear, as was the cause of the fire,Xinhua said. The Jilin government said 60 people were injured and had been rushed to hospital.

"I was lucky. I saw a ball of black smoke on my way to the bathroom. I didn't see the fire itself, but just the smoke coming towards me. You see my hands and my face, they are all black. I then jumped from the window, and injured my hands. After that I didn't know anything, nor what happened to the people inside," said another survivor Sai, lying on a hospital bed.

Hong Kong's Phoenix Television cited family members as saying that the doors were always kept locked during working hours during which workers were forbidden to leave and that the slaughterhouse never carried out fire drills.

China's record is poor. Fire exits in factories are often locked or blocked and regulations can be easily skirted by bribing corrupt officials.

Jilin is a largely agricultural province and an important grower of corn and soy beans.

The slaughterhouse is owned by a small local feed and poultry producer calledJilin Baoyuanfeng Poultry Company, according to the government.

Many of China's deadly industrial accidents happen in the huge coal mining industry, in which more than 1,300 people died last year from explosions, mine cave-ins and floods.