China fire toll reaches 120, relatives scuffle with police
Beijing: Angry relatives of the 120 people killed in the massive blaze at a chicken processing plant in northeast China scuffled with the police today and demanded answers for one of the country`s worst industrial disasters.
The investigators were probing the likelihood of ammonia leak as a cause of yesterday`s fire at the Jilin Baoyuanfeng Poultry Company`s plant in Mishazi Township of Dehui City, Jilin Province.
The massive fire killed 120 people and injured 77 others with survivors saying the firefighters arrived too late when the factory had been gutted.
Angry relatives of the victims surrounded police cars, accusing officers of ineffective rescue efforts and demanded an explanation for the disaster, the Southern Metropolis Daily reported.
Wang Rulin, secretary of the provincial Party Committee, said the government will deal with the aftermath of the accident, in part by forming a working group for each family to provide compensation, grief counselling and cater to their needs.
Those who are suspected of being responsible for the accident have been taken into police custody for further inquiry.
"The fire was so quick and intense it was very difficult to escape," said Chen Hengwu, a worker at the factory who escaped unhurt, was quoted by state-run China Daily as saying.
Chen said he heard someone shout "run" at about 6:10 am (local time), several minutes after he arrived at the factory`s No 2 workshop, and he saw fire spreading out of the window at the other end of the workshop.
"The electricity was out and the entire room was blackened by thick smoke. It was complete disorder. Everyone was running," he said.
The fire department of Jilin province said the blaze was caused by a leak of liquid ammonia, which is kept pressurised as part of the cooling system in meat processing plants.
Those suspected of being responsible for the accident have been detained, according to the local government.
Chen said there are two doors for the workshop, and normally only one door is open during working hours.
"I was only about 6 metres away from the door, so I could rush out very quickly," he said.
There were more than 300 workers at the workshop when the fire broke out, he said.
"When the firefighters arrived it was too late," Chen said. "The fire was almost out then."
Five hundred firefighters, 67 firefighting vehicles, 61 ambulances and 270 medical workers took part in the rescue effort.
Jilin Baoyuanfeng Poultry Co, with a staff of about 1,200, is engaged in chicken raising and processing, according to the company.
The factory has two workshops where chickens are slaughtered and processed, Chen said.
The other workshop also caught fire, he said.
"When I had run out I remembered my wife was also in the workshop," he said.
"But there was fire and smoke and it was impossible to go back to the workshop to find her. I was so worried I kept running outside around the workshop to see if she managed to escape," Chen said.
Luckily his wife, Pan Xijie, escaped with slight burns on her face.
Pan, lying in a bed in Fuyang Hospital in Dehui, said she heard someone cry "fire" and then she ran out with others.
The provincial government in Jilin Province said it will form a work team to help bereaved families.
Among the 77 injured victims in hospital, 15 are in critical conditions with serious burns and inhalation injuries. Psychologists have been sent to counsel the workers.
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