China blames management's 'total mess' for slaughterhouse fire

BEIJING (Reuters) - Safety management at the Chinese company whose poultry slaughterhouse caught fire earlier this week, killing 120 people, was a "total mess", and two senior executives have been detained by the authorities, the state media said on Thursday.

The local government is also to blame for failing to fulfil its safety oversight role at Jilin Baoyuanfeng Poultry Co., the small feed and poultry producer that owns the plant in the north-eastern province of Jilin, state news agency Xinhua said.

"As the main body of work safety enforcement, the company bears unshirkable responsibility for the accident, while the government is also responsible for its management and supervision duties," Xinhua cited Mr Yang Dongliang, head of the State Administration of Work Safety, as saying.

An initial probe showed that work safety management at the company was a "total mess", Mr Yang added. Xinhua said the company never carried out evacuation drills or trained staff in safety awareness, adding that the investigation found that escaping the blaze had been hampered by locked or blocked emergency exits.

"The accident has revealed that local governments and the related authorities failed to carry out their responsibility of supervision and give thorough and effective checks," Mr Yang said.

The authorities are holding the company's board chairman Jia Yushan and general manager Zhang Yushen, while the company's bank account has been frozen, Xinhua said.

Mr Yang also ordered safety checks across China, especially in risky sectors such as mining, transportation and the manufacture of dangerous chemicals, the report added.

In protests this week, relatives of the fire victims have clashed with the police.

China, the world's second-largest economy, has a poor record on workplace safety. Fire exits in factories are often locked to prevent workers taking time off or stealing, or blocked entirely.

Many of China's deadly industrial accidents happen in the huge coal mining industry, in which more than 1,300 people died last year from explosions, mine collapses and floods.