INADEQUATE fire safety exits and equipment were last night being blamed for the deaths of 81 people, many burned beyond recognition, and the 31 injury victims in Friday's fire in a toy factory northeast of Hong Kong. Authorities investigating the fire at the Zhili Handicrafts factory yesterday revealed the company had been warned eight months ago to improve its fire safety measures. And last night a Shenzhen Government spokesman, Li Xiaogun, said the Hong Kong owner of the joint venture, Lo Chiu-cheun, and his manager, a Mr Chan, were being questioned about the tragedy. He also said part of the cause of the fire had been inadequate safety measures and blocked exits. Investigations into the blaze began yesterday with an emergency meeting of senior officials in Shenzhen. Doctors at the Shenzhen Red Cross hospital warned that five of the injured workers were at risk because of extensive burns. Public Security Bureau (PSB) officers were stationed outside wards in Shenzhen and Kuiyong, preventing journalists from entering the hospitals. Initial inquiries suggested faulty electrical wiring started the fire in a ground floor fuse box at 1.40 pm on Friday when more than 200 workers were locked in the factory. The fire spread within minutes to the upper two floors, leaving the workers trapped in blocked staircases, behind locked gates and barred windows. ''It was horrible,'' cried one survivor in her hospital bed. ''I remember not being able to breathe as we clambered on top of one another trying to move down from the second floor. ''Everybody was crowding on to the second floor when they realised the gates were locked. We were hoping to jump from the windows there. ''In the process, workers were pushed off or trampled upon. Many died because they were trampled on. Others passed out after inhaling too many fumes,'' she said. She jumped from the second floor windows after rescuers prised open security bars. A resident said: ''People in the workshop were screaming and crying and gradually their voices were fading. It seemed like it was hell in there.'' Another witness said he saw workers rushing downstairs to get out, but the gates were locked. He said they then tried to rush to the main gate to get out on to the street, but many fell or fainted and did not make it. ''I was really scared when I saw people jumping out of the building.'' The Sunday Morning Post visited the factory last night only to find dozens of pairs of burned shoes littering the staircase. More than 50 bodies were found piled on the staircase and behind one of the two locked downstairs gates. A government official accused the owners of ignoring safety standards. ''We have warned the factory several times to take action to improve their fire prevention safety standards.'' The official warned that criminal charges would be brought against the owners if it was shown safety regulations had been violated. He lashed out at foreign investors, especially Hong Kong factory owners, of trying to ''save money by installing below-standard safety facilities.''