A fire at an illegal shoe factory in southeastern China killed 36 people and injured at least 20, authorities said Monday.

The blaze broke out Sunday night in a workshop making shoe uppers in the city of Putian in Fujian province, the official Xinhua News Agency said.

The factory was operating without a license, the State Administration of Work Safety said on its Web site.

The safety agency said 36 people were killed and 20 injured, although the Xinhua report had put the death toll at 34, with 21 injured.

Factory accidents in China kill thousands each year in fires, explosions and other incidents, most often blamed on insufficient safety equipment and workers ignoring safety guidelines.

A woman in the publicity department of Putian city's Public Security Bureau confirmed the blaze and said it likely started when an electric wire caught fire. Police were investigating, she said.

A man in the duty office of Fujian's Administration of Work Safety also confirmed the fire, but said he did not have any details. Calls to Putian city's Administration of Work Safety and the Xiuyu district government were unanswered.