Four killed, many others missing as blaze engulfs apartment blocks in Spain

Four killed, many others missing as blaze engulfs apartment blocks in Spain

February 23, 2024   03:07 pm

At least four people have died and up to 15 are missing after a massive fire ripped through two joined apartment blocks in the Spanish city of Valencia, emergency services say.

The blaze engulfed a 14-storey block in the Campanar neighbourhood and spread to an adjoining building.

Firefighters were seen rescuing people from balconies.

Experts say that highly flammable cladding on the building enabled the fire to spread rapidly.

The building contains 138 flats and was home to 450 residents, newspaper El Pais reported, citing the building’s manager.

Fifteen people, including six firefighters and a young child, have been injured although their lives are not in danger.

Valencia Mayor María José Catalá said authorities were still trying to locate between nine and 15 people, while the government’s regional representative said 14 people remained unaccounted for.

More than 20 fire crews tackled the blaze, which was made worse by high winds. By early Friday the block was a giant fire-blackened shell. People were urged to stay away from the area.

Local reports said firefighters had rescued several residents using cranes, including a couple living on the seventh floor.

One woman told TVE she had seen firefighters attempting to rescue a teenage boy trapped on the building’s first floor.

Luis Ibanez, who lives nearby, told TVE he had looked out of a window and saw the flames engulfing the block “within a matter of minutes”, saying it was “as if it was made of cork”.

“I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. The whole side of the building directly opposite was on fire.”

One man who lives on the second floor of the building told TV channel La Sexta that the flames grew rapidly after the fire started, reportedly on the fourth floor.

“The fire spread in a matter of 10 minutes,” he said, adding that material on the facade of the building may have caused the fire to spread.

Questions have been asked in Spain about the materials used in construction of the building, which was built in 2008-09.

Esther Puchades, vice president of the College of Industrial Technical Engineers of Valencia, told Spanish news agency Efe she had previously inspected the building.

She said its exterior featured a polyurethane material, which is no longer in wide use because of fears over flammability. It also has an aluminium covering.

“The reason the [building] burned so fast is because of this type of cladding,” she told Spanish media.

The cladding has been described by experts as effective for heat insulation but the ventilation, or gap, between it and the covering means it can be highly flammable.

Luis Sendra, of Valencia’s architects’ association, said this can cause a “chimney effect”, allowing fires to spread more quickly.

The issue of cladding recalls the 2017 tragedy at London’s Grenfell Tower. The cladding was blamed for helping flames to spread when that fire broke, resulting in 72 deaths.

Firefighters were called at around 17:30 local time (16:30 GMT). A field hospital has been set up in the area, RTVE reported. People displaced from their homes would be housed in hotels, authorities said.

Writing on X (formerly known as Twitter) Spain’s Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said: “Dismayed by the terrible fire in a building in Valencia... I want to convey my solidarity to all the people affected and recognition to all the emergency personnel already deployed at the scene.”

The Valencia authorities have announced a day of official mourning for the victims of the fire.


Source: BBC
-Agencies

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