At least 119 workers were killed when a devastating fire swept through a poultry plant in a city in northeastern China on Monday morning.
More than 50 workers were injured in the fire that broke out in a factory located in a city called Dehui about 100 km northeast of Changchun, the capital of Jilin province.
Many workers died before they could break open a locked exit in the chicken slaughterhouse, reports said.
The fire broke out around 6 in the morning in the slaughterhouse owned by the Jilin Baoyuanfeng Poultry Company.
At least 300 workers were in the plant when the fire was triggered, survivors told the state-run Xinhua news agency, adding they heard the sound of an explosion. Within minutes they saw dark smoke.
About 100 workers escaped from the plant, the gate of which was locked when the fire broke out, they added.
The plant's 'complicated' interior, narrow exits and a locked front gate made escape difficult, survivors told Xinhua.
Some employees raised the alarm shortly after the shift began at 6am and then the lights went out, spreading panic as workers rushed to find an exit, employee Wang Fengya told Xinhua.
"I started working at 6am along with another 100 workers in my workshop. There were two workshops in the plant," said Wang a 44-year-old female worker. She sustained burn injuries while escaping.
"Soon after, someone shouted 'run away!' and we quickly ran to the exit, which is about 40 meters away from my seat. Suddenly, the lights inside went out and the plant got quite dark," Wang said.
State broadcaster CCTV quoted unidentified workers as saying the fire broke out during a change of shifts and may have originated in a locker room at a time when about 350 workers were at the plant.
Jason Yan, technical director of the US Grains Council, in Beijing, told Associated Press that safety considerations usually took a backseat in China to features designed to maximize production and energy efficiency.
"I'm sure they consider some aspects of safety design. However, I think safety, to me, is not the first priority in their design plan," Yan told AP.
Jilin Baoyuanfeng produces 67,000 tons of processed chicken per year and employs about 1,200 people.