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China market inferno kills at least 15

Firefighters work at a market damaged by fire in Shenzhen in south China's Guangdong province on Wednesday, Dec 11, 2013. -- PHOTO: AP
Firefighters work at a market damaged by fire in Shenzhen in south China's Guangdong province on Wednesday, Dec 11, 2013. -- PHOTO: AP
Firefighters clean a fire site inside an agricultural products wholesale market in Shenzhen, Guangdong province on Wednesday, Dec 11, 2013. At least 15 people were killed as a blaze engulfed a food market in China in the early hours of Wednesday
Firefighters clean a fire site inside an agricultural products wholesale market in Shenzhen, Guangdong province on Wednesday, Dec 11, 2013. At least 15 people were killed as a blaze engulfed a food market in China in the early hours of Wednesday, local authorities said. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

BEIJING (AFP) - At least 15 people were killed as a blaze engulfed a food market in China in the early hours of Wednesday, local authorities said.

The inferno took hold of the Rongjian Agricultural Wholesale Market in Shenzhen, which borders Hong Kong, the city's fire department said.

So far 15 people have been confirmed dead and five injured, it said on its verified account on Sina Weibo, a Chinese equivalent of Twitter.

It took a total of 145 firefighters and 29 fire engines a hour and half to put out the blaze, it said.

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

State broadcaster CCTV put the death toll at 16.

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.