Jilin slaughterhouse fire

Jilin governor apologises for poultry plant fire as death toll rises to 120

State Council investigators find gross violations of safety and labour rules at Jilin slaughterhouse

PUBLISHED : Friday, 07 June, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 07 June, 2013, 3:42am

Jilin Governor Bayanqolu has apologised for the first time for the deadly fire at a poultry slaughterhouse in Dehui, Changchun, on Monday as pressure builds on authorities to bring those responsible for the tragedy to justice.

Also yesterday, Changchun Mayor Jiang Zhiying engaged in self-criticism, pledging not to ignore his mistakes and skirt problems, as a State Council investigation team decried gross violations of workplace safety and labour rules at the Jilin Baoyuanfeng Poultry slaughterhouse in the town of Mishazi, where staff worked behind locked doors.

The official death toll stands at 120, with another 77 workers injured. But authorities are still gathering information about how many workers were inside the plant at the time and how many were unaccounted for.

The central government investigation team linked the tragedy to official negligence, which could see some senior officials in the province lose their jobs.

State Administration of Work Safety director Yang Dongliang , who is heading the investigation team, told China National Radio there was little oversight or training in workplace safety for such a labour-intensive operation and that the design of the four-year-old plant, the way it was built, the materials used and its daily management were all flawed.

Yang said most of the victims were local farmers who were paid poorly. "What we've seen is so heart-wrenching that it's a lesson that we must learn the hard way," he said at a meeting with local officials. "How are we going to talk about development and a harmonious society without safety as a bottom line?"

Dehui government spokesman He Zhe confirmed yesterday that company president Jia Yushan and general manager Zhang Yushen had been detained, but denied Mishazi's party secretary and director had been sacked.

Yao Chunxue , who lost a niece to the fire, said he was worried that the investigation team might not get the full picture because some corrupt local officials would get in their way.

He said the slaughterhouse had also caught fire three years ago and its fire safety precautions had been cleared by the local authorities three days before Monday's fire.

"It doesn't take a genius to find out what has gone wrong with the plant," he said. "The issue is how much investigators from the top can see and where they will be led to see."

Liu Biao's younger sister, who worked as a cleaner at the slaughterhouse, was among the dead. He said he would be happy to see justice done for his sister, but it meant little to his family.

"If they're really serious about self-reflection, they should put in place precautions to safeguard workers' basic rights," he said.