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Sorrow behind "locked gate" in fatal plant fire


19:50, June 04, 2013

DEHUI, Jilin, June 4 (Xinhua) -- Rushing 10 kilometers in 10 minutes on a motorbike, Li Yanping did not get to see his daughter who died in a poultry plant fire on Monday, which has killed 119 people.

Stopped outside the smoky workshop debris, the father felt regret at sending his 20-year-old daughter Li Feng to work at the poultry plant, in northeast China's Jilin Province.

"She had only worked for one month at the plant. Her life forever stopped inside the dark locked gate," Li said.

Li Yanping's son once worked at the plant but quit due to being overworked during freezing winter days. As a result, Li Feng started to work at the facility to support her family.

The fire occurred at 6:06 a.m. at a workshop of the Jilin Baoyuanfeng Poultry Company in Mishazi Township in the city of Dehui, located about 100 km northeast of the provincial capital of Changchun.

As of Tuesday, the fire has killed at least 119 people with another 77 people injured.

More than 300 workers were in the plant when the fire broke out, according to witnesses, who added that they heard "loud bangs" before seeing dark smoke and flames rise from the building.

"Most of the remains were found in one workshop, which was usually locked during working hours," said a former male poultry plant worker, also surnamed Li.

The locked gates have led to anger about stubborn management systems in China's labor-intensive enterprises.

Li said workers have no dignity under such harsh management restrictions.

"Even if they wanted to go to the washroom, they could only leave the workshop after the team leaders allowed them to and unlocked the door," he said.

In the accident, 42-year-old Zhao Zhenchun lost both his wife Pan Yanhua and a sister.

"My wife used to get up at 4 a.m.. One hour later, she started working cutting chicken necks," Zhao said, adding that his wife usually got home around 10 p.m., only having four days off each month.

Due to the H7N9 avian flu that has hit China since late March, Pan Yanhua had been off work for 18 days.

June 3 was the first day she went back to work. It turned out to be her last.

Outside the police cordon around the plant, a middle-aged woman wiped away tears as her sister-in-law, leaving two daughters, 11 and 16, remained missing.

Others also wait.

"I have to see the body of my daughter," said Li Yanping, who has waited at the plant gate for over 24 hours.

An investigation into the incident is underway.

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