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Task force vows prompt fire probe results

By Chang Meng and Yang Jingjie  (Global Times)

10:10, June 05, 2013

Fire fighters search for survivors at the burnt poultry slaughterhouse owned by the Jilin Baoyuanfeng Poultry Company in Mishazi Township of Dehui City in Northeast China's Jilin Province, June 3, 2013. The death toll from the fire has risen to 120 as of 8 pm on Monday. Search and rescue work is under way. (Xinhua/Wang Haofei)

The task force probing the cause of a deadly fire at a poultry plant in Changchun, Northeast China's Jilin Province, has vowed to severely punish those responsible and publish their investigation results in a timely manner.

The State Council late Monday night established the interdepartmental panel for the fire at Baoyuanfeng Poultry Company in Dehui, which is administered by Changchun. The Supreme People's Procuratorate also sent officials to the scene to see if negligence was involved.

Zhao Xian, deputy secretary general of the Changchun government, said on Tuesday during a press conference that the fire killed 119 people and hospitalized another 77, adding that over 500 firefighters and eight sniffer dogs had conducted six rounds of searches as of 5 am Tuesday.

"It's almost certain there are no more casualties," Zhao said.

Zhao also said experts sent by the State Administration of Work Safety are now studying ways to deal with the liquid ammonia tanks left at the site so as to avoid secondary disasters.

Earlier unconfirmed reports said that blasts caused by the leakage of liquid ammonia led to the fire.

A local environmental watchdog determined that the air quality was normal in the plant's surrounding areas.

Related departments have asked the victims' families to claim the bodies, which were identified using DNA technology.

Local authorities were asked to console the families of victims in a meeting headed by the Jilin Provincial Party Committee earlier Tuesday.

The meeting also asked related departments to prevent mass incidents. "We should strengthen management of new media like the Internet, which could affect social stability."

Many people who had not found their family members who worked at the plant gathered outside the site Tuesday morning.

Some people broke down while demanding investigation results and others laid wreaths in front of the plant.

Local police cordoned off the plant without becoming involved in conflicts with the crowd.

Survivors and relatives of some victims confirmed to the Global Times that most of the doors at the workshops had been locked.

A female survivor surnamed Chen told the Global Times that she crawled out of a narrow exit.

Wu Zongzhi, director of the China Academy of Safety Science and Technology, told the Global Times on Tuesday that locking the fire exits was an "illegal act."

A meeting of the Changchun City Party Committee said the fire revealed problems at some labor-intensive enterprises.

It also disclosed that the building materials used in the plant were flammable, the Xinhua News Agency reported.

The official Sina Weibo account of Xinhua said work safety accidents are associated with the rapid development in the country, calling for a slowdown in growth.

"The government has always insisted on achieving economic growth on the basis of work safety, not at the cost of workers' safety," Wu said, adding that such accidents could be avoided through safety management, close supervision and technological advances.

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