Beijing : At least 119 people were killed and dozens injured on Monday when a major fire raced through a slaughterhouse in China’s Jilin province, said authorities.
The fire broke out around 6 am in the slaughterhouse owned by the Jilin Baoyuanfeng Poultry Company in Mishazi township of Dehui city, about 100 km northeast of the provincial capital Changchun. Over 300 workers were in the plant when the fire began, said survivors who added that they heard a sudden bang and then saw dark smoke fill the premises.
About 100 workers managed to escape from the plant, the gate of which was locked when the fire broke out.
“I started working at 6 a.m. along with another 100 workers in my workshop. There were two workshops in the plant,” said Wang Fengya, a 44-year-old female worker who suffered burn injuries while escaping.
“Soon after, someone shouted ‘run away!’ and we quickly ran to the exit, which is about 40 metres away from my seat. Suddenly, the lights inside went out and the plant got quite dark,” said Wang, adding that her legs felt like jelly as she fled.
Wang said she fell down and hurt herself while escaping.
“When I finally ran out and looked back at the plant, I saw high flames,” she added.
The complicated interior structure of the prefabricated plant in which the fire broke out and the narrow exits added difficulties to the rescue work, sources said. The building’s steel frame and dense smoke could be seen at the scene after the fire was put out at noon. Slaughterhouse worker Guo Yan stood outside the police cordon that encircled the burned-down establishment, waiting for a relative and co-worker trapped in the plant.
Guo, earning about 2,000 yuan ($320) a month, worked long hours to finance her daughter’s schooling. An environmental watchdog has begun monitoring the environmental impact of the fire. The cause of the fire is under investigation. Established in September 2009, Jilin Baoyuanfeng Poultry Company has 1,200 employees and an annual output amounting to 67,000 tonnes of chicken products.