Shenzhen, China — A fire in a south China farmer’s fruit market killed at least 16 people and injured five others on Wednesday.
The blaze engulfed Rongjian Farmers’ Market in Shenzhen’s Gongming District.
The fire started in the early morning hours Wednesday and spread to an area of some 1,000 square meters (0.4 miles), said the local fire department.
Twenty-nine fire engines were deployed and it took some 145 firefighters two hours to extinguish the fire, which was accomplished at 3:00am local time, according to reports.
A security guard in a nearby store named Wang Long said that he called police at around 1:20am when he noticed the fire and began waking up some vendors sleeping at their stalls.
“The fire hydrants were not working and the first four fire trucks arrived at about 1.40am,” Wang said. “The fire should have been under control if the safety equipment worked well. More people should have survived.” he said.
Many wholesalers stay at the market to unload fruit in the early morning.
Chinese state media said the Rongjian Farmers Market is a place for farm produce wholesalers.
Survivors from the fire said children, aged between one and seven, who died in the blaze were from two families.
Authorities investigating the cause of the blaze believe it to be the city’s worst fire in five years.
Search and rescue and clean-up operations were still continuing at 8:00am, the fire department said.
The market remained closed on Wednesday morning, and a main road nearby was also closed in both directions, said state-run broadcaster CCTV, citing one of its reporters.