The building in Metaponto di Bernalda where a fire broke out and a young migrant died | Photo: ANSA
The building in Metaponto di Bernalda where a fire broke out and a young migrant died | Photo: ANSA

A young Nigerian woman is dead after a fire broke out on Wednesday in three buildings in Metaponto di Bernalda, in the southern Italian region of Basilicata - a deprived area where dozens of migrant farmworkers live.

The 28-year-old Nigerian woman, Eris Petty Stone, is survived by two young children who are currently living in Nigeria. The fire was reportedly caused by the explosion of a gas tank. The affected buildings are part of a former industrial complex where hundreds of migrant farmworkers have lived in precarious sanitary conditions for many years. These migrants are often exploited by gang-masters.

Local unions called the fire an ''announced'' tragedy. 

The local municipality had ordered an eviction three months ago but Mayor Domenico Tataranno said red tape slowed down the procedure. 

Building completely destroyed by blaze

All three buildings in the area were damaged by the fire. The charred body of Eris Petty Stone was found in a building completely destroyed by the blaze. She had been living in Italy since 2015, when she applied for a residency permit in the northern city of Padua. Local authorities had rejected the request. Stone had appealed and was waiting for a response. 

According to the investigators, the gas tank used by Stone to cook could have caused the blaze. More gas canisters were removed during operations to clear the area, which lasted for several hours.

'Gradual' solution for other migrants 

Hundreds of migrants who live in the abandoned warehouses waited outside after the incident, hoping to collect their things and to find out where they would be relocated to. 

The situation was discussed at an emergency meeting of the Provincial committee for public order and security chaired by prefect Demetrio Martino. Authorities have said they will find a "gradual" solution to host the migrants in a safe place. Basilicata Governor Vito Bardi announced that the region will "offer support" to the local administration of Bernalda "to manage the emergency." The dramatic incident, Bardi said, "is a reminder of the need to find adequate solutions to deal with the issue of housing for migrants working on the fields."

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