Chinese Poultry Plant Fire Kills 119

An estimated 119 people were killed and many injured in a fire June 3 at a chicken processing facility in northern China. News reports said the tight layout of the plant, high number of employees and possible locked doors were contributors to the death toll.

And it comes a week after Smithfield Foods Inc., America’s largest pork processor, announced a deal to be acquired by the Chinese pork processor, Shuanghui International Holdings Ltd.

Reports based on Chinese media said the fire at Jilin Baoyuanfeng Poultry Co. – in Jilin province's Mishazi township, north of the provincial capital Changchun – was caused by an ammonia leak that sparked an explosion.

"In my memory, this is the most serious accident in the meat-processing sector," said He Zhonghua, quoted by the Wall Street Journal. He is an analyst with China Meat Industry Network, a consultancy owned by the semiofficial China Meat Industry Association.

Huffington Post said the fire was China's worst industrial disasters since a September 2008 mining cave-in that claimed 281 lives. The news source also quoted a Chinese news broadcast that said the fire broke out during a change of shifts when about 350 workers were at the plant.

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