Twin disasters befell Shantou in Guangdong yesterday, as 14 young women died in a factory fire and an army jet crashed, injuring four people.
The deadly fire broke out at a lingerie factory in Chaonan district around 3.30pm, Xinhua reported. As well as those killed, at least one person was injured.
Officials were unable to confirm the cause of the blaze, but the website of The Southern Metropolis Daily reported allegations that a disgruntled worker started the fire after locking the factory gates, because of a salary dispute. The women who died were aged between 18 and 20, the website said.
Hours before the fire, a People's Liberation Army fighter jet crashed in Shantou some time after 9 am, injuring four people on the ground and causing a massive traffic jam, state media reported.
The PLA Jian-7 fighter crashed into a farmhouse in Shantou's Jinping district, close to the city's border with Chaozhou , the semi-official China News Agency reported. The pilot ejected and landed safely, but four residents were injured in a resulting fire.
Pictures posted online by witnesses showed thick black smoke shrouding the residential area, and the wreckage of a Jian-7 tail bearing PLA Air Force markings lying between a two-storey building and a farmhouse, which were ablaze.
The Jian-7 is a Chinese-built version of the Russian MiG-21, which dates back to the late 1950s. It is being phased out for the more modern Jian-10.
A villager who lives nearby said yesterday: "The whole of Jinping district has been blocked off by the air force, the local fire station, the armed police and other authorities since the crash happened in the morning."
The crash had paralysed most local traffic in Jinping, with roads commandeered for use by the air force, armed police and firefighters rushing to the crash site to take part in the rescue effort.
Shantou's emergency office said on its official microblog that four people were injured in "a fire that took place around 9.10am yesterday". Three people were trapped in the wreckage and rescued by emergency workers. All four were sent to hospital for treatment.
It added that one woman, aged 26, was badly hurt and was still being treated, but none of the injured villagers were in critical condition.
The crash was widely reported and picked up by many mainland media portals, including the websites of China Central Television, the People's Daily and other mainstream newspapers. Shantou's city government, however, called the incident merely "a fire" and failed to link it to the crash. That sparked an outcry among internet users, who criticised city authorities as "inefficient and irresponsible".