Authorities say a massive fire at a poultry processing plant in northeast China has killed at least 119 people.
According to the Xinhua news agency, the fire broke out early Monday morning at a chicken plant located outside the city of Dehui, about 250 miles northeast of China’s capital, Beijing.
Experts say the cause of the blaze is still under investigation but believe a leakage in tanks of ammonia, which is used in the poultry industry as a coolant, could be to blame for igniting the fire.
The poultry facility, operated by Jilin Baoyuanfeng Poultry Company, employs approximately 1,200 people.
Reports say more than 300 people were inside the plant when the blaze started.
While 100 workers managed to escape from the plant, authorities say at least 119 fell victim to the fire. Another 54 workers were injured.
Local police said the death toll is expected to rise as more bodies are recovered from the charred buildings.
Initial reports say employees raised the alarm about a fire shortly after the 6 am shift started and when the lights went out.
Panicked workers who rushed to find exits said the plant’s “complicated” interior, narrow exits and a locked front gate made escape difficult.
“Suddenly, the lights inside went out and the plant got quite dark,” a worker named Wang Fengya told Xinhua. “When I finally ran out and looked back at the plant, I saw high flames.”
Reports say fire crews battled the flames for roughly six hours before getting it under control.
The CS Monitor notes Monday’s poultry plant fire was one of China’s worst industrial disasters in recent years, with the death toll the highest since a September 2008 mining cave-in that claimed 281 lives.
Raw video of the China poultry plant fire can be seen below: