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The corporate face of Shantou in China, where a factory fire has killed 14 people Wikimedia Commons

14 people die in fire at underwear factory

Arson suspected in the blaze in Shantou in south China.

FOURTEEN PEOPLE WERE killed when an arsonist torched an underwear factory in the southern Chinese city of Shantou on Tuesday, state media reported.

A fire broke out at around 3.30pm (07.30 GMT), Guangdong province emergency officials told Xinhua news agency, and was put out half an hour later.

One worker was injured in the blaze and was taken to hospital for treatment.

Police said initial investigations showed the fire had been started deliberately and that a suspect had been arrested on suspicion of torching the building, the Shantou public security bureau said in a statement reported by Xinhua.

Senior officials immediately ordered an inquiry into the incident and ordered safety measures in other factories to be stepped up, while local police said investigations were ongoing.

China is the world’s biggest textile exporter, with the industry’s total export volume worth $192.68 billion in the first three-quarters of the year, according to data from the China Textile Industry Association quoted by Xinhua.

But safety standards are regularly flouted, and workplace accidents remain common despite repeated pledges by the government to improve regulations and oversight.

Nearly 50,000 people were reported to have died in work-related accidents in the first nine months of 2011, according to the State Administration of Work Safety.

A fire at a garment factory on the outskirts of the Bangladeshi capital Dhaka last month killed 110 workers.

In September, blazes in the Pakistani port city of Karachi killed over 300 workers.

Read: At least 112 killed in fire at Bangladesh garment factory>
Read: Factory fires kill more than 310 in Pakistan>

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