4 taken into custody after deadly blaze
Four people have been taken into custody in relation to a deadly factory fire in Henan province that claimed 38 lives and injured another two, according to local authorities.
The fire broke out at 4:22 pm on Monday at a two-story garment workshop in Wenfeng district of Anyang, local authorities said. The blaze was extinguished around midnight following efforts that involved 63 fire engines and 240 firefighters.
Eighty-nine people managed to escape. The two injured were sent to hospital and are in stable condition.
A preliminary investigation found that a welding operation on the first floor, which was also used as a warehouse, was to blame for the accident. The operation ignited some cotton fiber, which then set fire to large piles of cloth.
Many of the casualties, who were workers making winter clothes on the second floor, died as a result of asphyxiation.
In a news conference late on Tuesday, Yuan Jiajian, Anyang's Party chief, bowed in a show of deep remorse and apology.
"Because we failed to do our job well, there have been heavy losses to people's lives and property. The lesson from the accident is extremely profound," he said. "I have been in deep self-blame, and feel guilty."
Gao Yong, mayor of Anyang, said the local government is still identifying bodies and dealing with the aftermath.
He said the four in custody are two workers and two of the garment company's leading executives.
The State Council, China's Cabinet, established a special task force to thoroughly investigate the case. Headed by Song Yuanming, vice-minister of emergency management, the team vowed to find the cause quickly and punish those responsible.
After visiting the workshop on Tuesday morning, Wang Xiangxi, minister of emergency management, demanded the strengthening of the management of welding operations.
The accident not only resulted in heavy losses, but also taught a sobering lesson, the minister stressed, urging efforts to deal with the aftermath.
He demanded counseling services be provided to families of the victims and the injured be treated.
Access to the workshop, which was seriously damaged with some parts collapsing, should be highly restricted to prevent secondary disasters, he said.
The accident has exposed problems in fire safety management, and authorities across the country should rectify violations in warehouses, high-rise buildings, large commercial complexes and restaurants to avoid similar accidents.
Inspections should be carried out in industries that deal with hazardous chemicals, mining, transportation and construction, to rule out safety hazards. The management of welding operations should be intensified to curb serious accidents.
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