Italy Prato fire kills seven in Chinese-owned factory

Workers were asleep when the fire broke out as Emily Thomas reports

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At least seven people have died and two are badly injured after fire swept through a Chinese-owned clothing factory in the Italian town of Prato.

The blaze broke out in a loft where 11 people were sleeping, causing part of the roof to collapse, fire officials said.

The cause of the fire is being investigated.

Prato, in Tuscany, has become a centre for Chinese-run factories producing low-cost garments.

Witness Leonardo Tuci told Italian news agency Ansa that he saw smoke coming from the factory and Chinese workers screaming for help.

He told Tuscan TV that the flames were so strong he couldn't see anything inside the building.

Although the cause of the fire is unknown, correspondents say it has prompted questions about conditions inside Chinese-owned workshops in Prato - a satellite town of Florence.

Roberto Pistonina, of the Florence and Prato section of the CISL trade union, said on his Facebook page that hundreds were "living and working in conditions of near-slavery".

Tuscany's regional governor, Enrico Rossi, called for greater co-ordination between Italy and China on the thousands of businesses that have sprung up as well as better supervision of the buildings.

He said some garment factories had links to Chinese organised crime.

Prato Mayor Roberto Cenni told La7 TV that authorities inspected hundreds of the businesses each year, shutting down the ones found to be operating illegally.

"But they reopen in another area, with the same procedures," he said.

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