17 perish as inferno razes illegal plant

Updated: 2011-04-26 08:24

By Zhang Yan and Li Jiabao (China Daily)

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BEIJING - Seventeen migrant workers died when a fire swept through an illegal garment factory and accommodation above in a four-floor building in a southern Beijing suburb on Monday morning, local authorities said.

The fire broke out at around 1 am in the Jiugong township of Daxing district, killing the 17 and injuring 24, said Chang Hongyan, deputy head of the district government.

He added that the initial investigation suggests the fire started on the ground floor, which was being used as an unlicensed garment workshop, and spread to the floors above where workers slept.

"The site of the incident was not a residential building but an illegal and self-built four-story building erected by local farmers," said Chang. "The ground floor was rented out for illegal garment processing, which had not been approved by the local authorities."

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The cause of the fire is still under investigation but is likely to be a short circuit in the building's wiring, he said.

All of the victims were working in the factory when the fire broke out and died on the ground floor from smoke inhalation, Chang said.

The 24 who were injured, including the factory's boss, were taken to local hospitals, he added.

He Lixin, deputy head of Beijing Youanmen Hospital, said they received 20 people with burns, of whom 10 were severely burned.

"The doctors have conducted operations on three people who were suffering from severe burns and those patients are now in stable condition," he said.

One of the injured, surnamed Xu, whose right leg was fractured and who is receiving treatment at Youanmen Hospital, said he and his wife had been sleeping when the fire broke out and were awoken by screams and loud noises.

"Then, I saw heavy smoke was billowing outside and we quickly dressed but the stairs were impassable so we climbed onto the balcony next door and jumped to the ground to escape," he said.

Jiugong is believed to have many such unlicensed garment-processing workshops housed in illegally constructed buildings.

A 40-year-old resident surnamed Gao told China Daily that the electrical wiring in most workshops is a total mess.

A 50-year-old construction worker surnamed Lu said that construction teams usually install wiring the way the factory owners want on an ad hoc basis.

"We don't have advanced planning and no authority checks up and supervises the safety and quality of the work after construction," he said.

Yang Huanning, vice-minister of public security, said on Monday that an investigation team will conduct an intensive survey of fire hazards in the surrounding area.


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