Two arrests after deadly Chinese fire – officials

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BEIJING: Authorities have arrested two executives at a factory in connection with China’s deadliest blaze in over a decade, local officials said on Thursday, after reports that locked doors prevented workers from escaping.

The fire, which engulfed a poultry plant in northeastern China on Monday, killed 120 and injured at least 70, stirring anger at factory bosses who a report said had locked doors to stop workers from taking breaks.

The chairman and general manager of the Baoyuanfeng poultry plant, in Jilin province, have both been arrested, provincial officials said on a verified social media account which gave no further details.

The company’s legal representative had been held following the fire and the firm’s assets frozen, a local official said on Tuesday. It was not clear whether that person was one of those referred to in Thursday’s announcement.

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Workers in the factory, where the fire spread rapidly after an apparent chemical leak, were unable to escape as only one of the building doors was open, with other exits locked, the Southern Metropolis Daily reported.

The doors were locked to prevent workers taking toilet breaks, state-run broadcaster China Central Television said, citing factory staff.

“To go to the toilet you needed permission from a team leader, and only then would the doors be opened,” the report quoted a former worker as saying.

Around 90 percent of the plant’s staff were female, The Beijing Times reported.

The fire was China’s worst in terms of lost lives for more than a decade. On December 25, 2000, a blaze at a shopping center in Luoyang, in the central province of Henan, killed 309 people.

Workplace safety standards can be poor in China, where fatal accidents happen regularly at mines and factories, with some blaming lax enforcement of rules.

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