Jilin fire: China poultry plant representative detained, toll at 120

BEIJING (AFP) - A senior official at a poultry processing firm in China has been detained over a plant fire that killed 120 people - the country's deadliest blaze in 12 years - a local official said on Tuesday.

The fire, which engulfed the Baoyuanfeng poultry plant in minutes on Monday after a blast triggered by a suspected chemical leak, has left another 70 injured, the state-run Xinhua news agency reported.

"The legal representative has been placed in custody and (the company's) assets have been frozen," an official with the ruling Communist Party's propaganda department in Changchun, who declined to be named, told AFP.

The representative's role in the poultry firm was not disclosed.

The fire at the plant at Dehui, around 100 km northeast of Changchun, the provincial capital of Jilin province, started in a workshop which had only one open door, Chinese media reports have said.

Up to 300 people were working inside, they said. It was not clear how many people were still missing.

The blaze was the country's worst fire for more than a decade, according to listings on internet portal Baidu.

On December 25, 2000, an inferno at a shopping centre in Luoyang, in the central province of Henan, killed 309 people.

Authorities are still investigating the cause of the blaze, according to the Jilin government's official account on China's Twitter-like Sina Weibo.

Mr Wang Rulin, party secretary of Jilin, has said the government will assign a "working team" to the family of each victim and ordered officials to "resolutely prevent major mass incidents", according to a statement on the Changchun government website, using a euphemism for social unrest.

He also vowed to strengthen control over the Internet to "resolutely prevent malicious exaggeration, rumours spreading and firmly prevent the misleading of public opinions and the undermining of stability", the statement said.