Five workers die in accident at Italian construction site

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Five workers were killed and three seriously injured after a slab collapsed at a construction site in the Italian city of Florence, reviving concerns about work safety standards in the country.

The workers died on Friday morning while building a supermarket for the Esselunga chain. Italian media said the victims were an Italian man, three Moroccans and a Tunisian.

Firefighters pulled out three survivors, who were taken to hospital, and four bodies. On Saturday, they were trying to extract the last person still trapped under rubble, in operations they described as “complex”.

The president of the Tuscany region, which comprises Florence, said rescuers believed the last missing person was dead.

“We can now say that there are five dead”, Eugenio Giani told a local radio.

Accidents on work sites are fairly common in Italy: the country had 601 workplace deaths in 2021, the second-highest figure in the European Union after France, according to the bloc’s statistics agency Eurostat.

The Cgil and Uil unions called a two-hour national strike in February,  blaming the excessive use of subcontracting for lowering wages, safety, training and working conditions on building sites.

“We are tired of hearing words of condolence. Work and safety must be at the centre of political attention to implement concrete solutions, starting from the places most at risk such as construction sites”, they said.

Pope Francis on Saturday joined Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni and other Italian officials in expressing grief for the Florence deaths and called for “more efforts from those responsible for protecting workers”.