A fire tore through a shoe factory in eastern China, killing at least 16 people, and the state media said that the police on Wednesday took into custody the owners of the plant, which makes shoes for export around the world.
The blaze at the plant in Wenling was the latest in a series of deadly industrial accidents in China, casting attention on the poor occupational safety situation in the country. Last summer, 120 people were killed in a fire at a poultry slaughterhouse in northeastern China, in which blocked exits were cited as a cause of the high number of deaths.
Xinhua, the state-run news agency, said that the police took into custody Lin Jianfeng, the legal representative of the plant, and Lin Zhenjian, a shareholder of Taizhou Dadong Shoes Company. Taizhou Dadong exports shoes to five continents and employs 4,580 workers, who produce 50,000 pairs of shoes a day, according to a profile of the company.
Leading Western clothing retailers have come under increased scrutiny for workplace conditions at Asian plants that supply their products, particularly after the collapse of a garment factory in Bangladesh last year killed 1,100 workers. It could not be determined which overseas companies were supplied by the Wenling shoe plant.
The fire at the plant broke out Tuesday afternoon and was put out three hours later; 20 people were rescued from the blaze. Photos from the scene showed at least one child being pulled away.
Many Chinese factories ramp up production in the weeks before the Lunar New Year holiday, in which hundreds of millions of workers take extended vacations.