Workshop fire kills at least 119

Updated: 2013-06-04 01:54

By HAN JUNHONG and DING LUYANG in Dehui, Jilin and WANG XIAODONG in Beijing (China Daily)

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'Everyone was running' in total disorder, survivor says

At least 119 workers were killed in a fire at a slaughterhouse in Jilin province on Monday in one of the deadliest infernos in the country.

"The fire was so quick and intense it was very difficult to escape," said Chen Hengwu, a worker at the factory, who escaped unhurt.

Workshop fire kills at least 119

A poultry slaughterhouse was gutted by a fire in Dehui, Jilin province, on Monday. Wang Haofei / Xinhua

Chen said he heard someone shout "run" at about 6:10 am, 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," he recalled.

"It was complete disorder. Everyone was running."

The fire broke out at 6:06 am at the workshop of Jilin Baoyuanfeng Poultry Co in Dehui.

The fire department of Jilin province said the blaze was caused by a leak of liquid ammonia, which is kept pressurized 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.

President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang urged all-out rescue efforts to minimize casualties and injuries, and called for a thorough investigation.

Chen said there are two doors for the workshop, and normally only one door is open during working hours.

"I was only about 6 meters 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," he said. "The fire was almost out then."

Five hundred firefighters, 67 firefighting vehicles, 61 ambulances and 270 medical workers took part in the rescue.

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."

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.

"It was chaotic," she said. "After I ran out I took a taxi to the hospital."

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