At least 16 workers have been killed in a fire at a shoe factory in the town of Wenling in Zhejiang province in eastern China, media reports said, citing Xinhua, the official news agency.
More than 20 people were rescued from the fire and the five injured were reportedly in stable condition in hospital. The cause of the fire, which took firefighters three hours to put out, is being investigated, according to reports citing local media.
Manufacturing powerhouse China has a poor record of ensuring the safety of its workers, and according to Reuters, fire exits in factories, office buildings and shops are sometimes locked to keep workers from stealing or taking time off.
Shoe factories, such as the one where the latest incident took place, usually contain substantial amounts of flammable chemicals, according to Associated Press. Last June, 121 people were killed in a poultry plant fire in the country's northeast, which was the result of a short circuit, and investigators found the plant's safety exits were blocked, AP reported.
And, accidents in the country’s mining industry, triggered by explosions, mine collapses and floods, claim hundreds of lives each year, according to Reuters.
Wenling lies about 250 miles south of Shanghai on the country’s east coast.