A fire at a bra workshop in Shantou, Guangdong Province, that caused the deaths of 14 women and injured one other, was an arson attack according to local police.
The Southern Metropolis Daily reports that the fire started around 3.30pm on Tuesday afternoon, quickly spreading through the factory. Initial reports suggested that the fire might have been an arson attack as the workshop wages were in arrears. Police later confirmed that they were investigating former staff members they believe to have started the fire.
14 women died in the fire, all of whom were aged between 18-20.
Update #1: A former employee of the factory has been arrested after confessing to having started the fire.
A former worker told state media Wednesday he set the fire that killed 14 young workers at a Chinese undergarment factory because he was angry about less than $500 in unpaid wages.
The suspect, Liu Shuangyun, told the Guangdong TV broadcaster in a jailhouse interview that he started the fire “because I couldn’t get my salary,” which he had been owed since quitting the factory three years ago.
Asked whether he had thought about or regretted the loss of life the fire had caused, Liu said, “I didn’t think about these things.”
Xinhua said the suspect spent 40 yuan (US$6) on petroleum used to start the blaze and fled the scene after his alleged crime.
“The whole time, I’ve been very impulsive, very angry about this,” Liu said during the television interview. “So I did these things.”
Sitting on a chair, his hands in handcuffs, Liu said the factory boss owed him 3,000 yuan (US$461). The reporter said that after Liu quit the factory, his former boss had only given him excuses for why he couldn’t pay the back wages.
Questions remain however over how the fire was able to spread so quickly and why so many workers were unable to reach safety. Liu may have started the fire, but factory owners may share responsibility for the deaths of the woman trapped inside the building.