PRATO, Italy — Dozens of bouquets block the entrance to the Teresa Moda outlet and factory where seven Chinese workers died last Sunday in a fire that swept through the establishment where they worked and lived.
Enlarged photos of the seven victims, two women and five men, have been affixed to the door under a handwritten sign that reads: “Sorrow Has No Color.” Behind police barricades, in soggy piles, are charred bolts of cloth, mountains of plastic hangers and garbage bags full of newly cut garment pieces.
The building, which houses Teresa Moda, a wholesale distributor which also prepared clothing for assembly lines, did not have emergency exits, officials said. Windows were blocked by bars. Officials believe that a camp stove used for cooking probably caused the fire, in which two others were seriously hurt.
It took calamity to fan national outrage at the low-cost business model that took root here 20 years ago and that has transformed the economy of this Tuscan town 12 miles north of Florence.
But for officials who have tried to get a grip on the problem, “a tragedy is always just around the corner,” said Stefano Bellandi, the local secretary for the CISL, one of Italy’s main unions.
The fire at Teresa Moda, and the uproar that followed, exposed the complicated, and at times tense, cohabitation in Prato of Italian residents and Chinese immigrants, who now own nearly 45 percent of the city’s manufacturing businesses.