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Chinese, Italian nationals arrested over deadly Prato fire

Seven killed in garment-factory blaze

20 March, 12:39
Chinese, Italian nationals arrested over deadly Prato fire (ANSA) - Prato, March 20 - Italian police arrested a number of people, both Chinese and Italian nationals, on Thursday over a deadly blaze at a Chinese-owned garment factory.

Seven Chinese workers died while sleeping in the factory in December and three others were injured.

In total five people were detained or put under house arrest, ANSA sources said.

They could face charges that include multiple manslaughter.

Soon after the fire, investigators put four Chinese nationals under investigation, three managers and the owner of the plant. The blaze sparked by stoves in a makeshift kitchen caused the roof of the factory to cave in.

The case was seen as highlighting a high degree of exploitation at Chinese-owned garment firms in Italy, especially the Tuscan city of Prato. According to the labour ministry, many of Prato's thousands of Chinese textile workers reside and work in Italy illegally.

Officials have shut down 600 plants in the past four years over infractions, and in the first nine months of 2013, 76% of Prato's clothing factories were cited at some point.

Critics say it's easy for companies shut down by the government to reopen under a different name without implementing the proper changes.

According to the labour ministry, Prato hosts "many more" undocumented workers than the average Italian city.