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Peru's capital under toxic cloud from warehouse fire
by Staff Writers
Lima (AFP) Dec 11, 2013

China market inferno kills 16
Beijing (AFP) Dec 11, 2013 - A blaze which engulfed a Chinese food market killed 16 people in the early hours of Wednesday, firefighters and state media said.

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.

The Peruvian capital awoke Wednesday under an extensive toxic cloud of black smoke billowing out of a burning warehouse full of tires and fuel, raising fears for public health.

Huge fuel explosions ignited by the blaze injured five firefighters and authorities said dozens of people have been treated for respiratory problems at health centers in Lima.

Peru's environment ministry said it could take several days for the smoke to clear.

"The smoke contains carbon dioxide... and elements that are carcinogenic, causing an immediate impact on health, particularly among people with respiratory problems," said Arturo Alfaro, director of the non-governmental group Viva.

The blaze broke out early Tuesday in a four story warehouse owned by Technimotors, which sells motorcycles, tires, motor oil and auto parts.

The four story structure was still burning Wednesday morning as firefighters tried to douse the flames from outside the building.

Fire chief Mario Nunez said the warehouse was "totally filled with tires, oil, and all kinds of flammable material."

"Even though it was full of flammable material there was a welding shop on the top floor," he said.

The intense heat in the interior of the building caused some lateral walls to collapse, and threatened to bring down the rest of the structure, said Nunez.

Residents of Lima's populous La Victoria district were forced to leave their homes because of the heavy pollution.

Angry residents demanded to know how the warehouse was allowed to operate in their neighborhood.

"They've allowed them to have all that toxic material in an area where so many people live," a woman from the neighborhood said on local television.

Huge columns of black smoke from the fire mixed with the fog that normally rises from the Pacific at this time of year, covering the city in a dense, dark cloud.

Blown by sea winds, the cloud settled over densely populated areas in the hills surrounding the city.

Authorities urged residents to cover their faces with masks or dampened handkerchiefs and to wash their eyes.

Lima, which is built on desert dunes, gets very little rainfall and depends on cleansing winds from the sea to clear the atmosphere.


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Italian police hunt factory owner after deadly fire
Rome (AFP) Dec 02, 2013
Italian prosecutors said Monday they were hunting for the owner of a Chinese-run garment factory and dormitory where seven workers died in a fire, as the town of Prato declared a day of mourning. Prato prosecutor Lorenzo Gestri said investigators were looking into possible charges of multiple manslaughter and exploiting illegal labour for both the Italian owner of the factory and the Chinese ... read more

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