Workers at the small machinery company had just returned for their first shift Tuesday, nine days after a powerful and deadly quake, when another one struck, collapsing the roof.
At least three employees at the factory -- two immigrants and an Italian engineer checking the building's stability -- were among those killed in the second deadly quake to strike a region of Italy that hadn't considered itself prone to quakes.
By late Tuesday, the death toll stood at 16, with one person missing: a worker at the machinery factory in the small town of San Felice Sul Panaro. About 350 people also were injured in the 5.8 magnitude quake north of Bologna.
The injured included a 65-year-old woman who was pulled out alive by rescuers after lying for 12 hours in the rubble of her apartment's kitchen in Cavezzo, another town hit hard by the quake. Firefighters told Sky TG24 TV that a piece of furniture, which had toppled over, saved her from being crushed by the wreckage. She was taken to a hospital for treatment.
The building had been damaged in the first quake May 20 and had been vacant since. The woman had just returned Tuesday morning to retrieve some clothes when the latest temblor knocked down the building, firefighters said.
Factories, barns and churches fell, dealing a second blow to a region where thousands remained homeless from the earlier 6.0 magnitude quake, which killed seven.
The two quakes struck one of the most productive regions in Italy at a particularly crucial moment, as the country faces enormous pressure to expand its economy to stave off the continent's debt crisis.
The area encompassing the cities of Modena, Mantua and Bologna is prized for its production of Ferraris, Maseratis and Lamborghinis; its world-famous Parmesan cheese; and its machinery companies.
As in the May 20 quake, many of the dead in Tuesday's temblor were workers in huge warehouses, many of them prefabricated, that house factories. Inspectors have been determining which factories are safe to re-enter, but economic pressure sped up renewed production -- perhaps prematurely.
Co-workers of Mohamed Azeris, a Moroccan immigrant and father of two who died in the just-reopened factory, say he was forced back to work as a shift supervisor or faced losing his job. A local union representative demanded an investigation.
"Another earthquake -- unfortunately during the day -- that means people were inside working, so I think that an investigation will need to be opened here to check who cleared as safe these companies to understand who's responsible for this," Erminio Veronesi said.