Updated: 12/11/2013 21:37 | By Agence France-Presse

China market inferno kills 16

A blaze which engulfed a Chinese food market killed 16 people in the early hours of Wednesday, firefighters and state media said.


China market inferno kills 16

Firefighters pack up their equipment after putting out a fire in a wholesale food market in Shenzhen, China on December 11, 2013

The inferno raged through the Rongjian Agricultural Wholesale Market in Shenzhen bordering Hong Kong, the city's fire department said.

The state news agency Xinhua said 16 people including an infant girl were killed and five injured, and the market manager was in police custody.

It took 145 firefighters and 29 fire engines a hour and half to put out the blaze, the fire department said on its verified account on Sina Weibo, a Chinese equivalent of Twitter.

The cause of the fire was still under investigation and rescuers were still searching the site. 

Zhang Xiaowei, spokesman for the city fire department, was quoted  by Xinhua as saying all the victims were people associated with four stores in the market.

Security guard Wang Long, who discovered the fire, was quoted as saying many shopowners and their families live in the market and store their goods there to start business in the early morning.

Workplace safety standards can be poor in China. Fatal accidents happen regularly at mines and factories, with some blaming lax enforcement of rules.

In June 121 people died in an inferno at a poultry processing plant in northeast China's Jilin province, which started in a workshop that had only one unlocked door.

It was the country's worst fire for more than a decade. 

In 2000 a blaze at a shopping centre in Luoyang, in the central province of Henan, killed 309 people.

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