This article is from the archive of our partner .

A set of explosions and a fire at a Chinese poultry factory killed at least 119 workers on Monday, amid reports that poor building conditions contributed to the high death toll. Local officials say the blaze was caused by a leak of pressurized ammonia, but it isn't clear if the three large explosions started the fire or were the end result of it. More than 50 other people were injured.

According to the Xinhua news service, panicked workers became trapped by the building's "complicated" layout (especially after the power went out) and then found blocked emergency exits and a locked front gate that may have prevented many of them from escaping.

The fire is one of the worst industrial disasters to hit China in recent years, but eerily reminiscent of recent disasters in other South Asian countries were lax safety standards and poor building construction have lead to the deaths of thousands of workers, many of them poor and underpaid. The worst, of course, was the collapse of a Bangladesh factory that killed more than 1,000 people last month, but fires elsewhere in the country have killed hundreds more in the last year.

China's coal mines are also notoriously deadly. Just last month as many as 40 workers were killed in two separate explosions on the same day.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.

We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to