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119 Die in Chinese Poultry Factory Fire
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A poultry processing plant in China ignited amidst explosions, resulting in a fire that has killed at least 119 people, this Monday – one of the worst factory disasters the country has seen in years. What caused the fire is uncertain, but it is believed that many of these deaths could have been avoided were the fire exits viable. Instead, many of them were blocked, locked, or otherwise inadequate for employees to escape to safety. The situation in the heated burning environment, where toxic fumes filled the air, resembled a panic stricken clambering for life, as employees tore into each other, leaping and wedging past each other – indeed, over each other — only to find that the exit they so eagerly sought was in fact blocked off.

“Inside and outside the workshop was glowing red, and the lighting and escape indicators were all out,” a worker told the China News Service.

  
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The Baoyuanfeng Poultry Plant is a popular one, a major supplier for four years, answering the economic prosperity many Chinese cities have experienced lately. Disasters like this one lead critics to believe that economic growth has been prioritized over worker safety, and the problem of fire exits being blocked off is a perennial one for Chinese workplaces.

“But many favorites are locked for what the owners or managers consider to be security reasons, and fire exist are not properly maintained or given the priority they should be,” said Geoffrey Crothall, the communications director for China Labor Bulletin, an advocacy group in Hong Kong, as reported by the New York Times.

President Xi Jinping, who is abroad, responded to the tragedy, telling officials to “get to the bottom of the causes of this accident, pursue culpability according to the law, sum up the profound lessons, and adopt effective measures to resolutely prevent major accidents from occurring.” Sounds rather straightforward. Maybe there will finally be some reform in Chinese factories?

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