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Spain: Fire engulfs high-rise apartment block in Valencia

Published February 22, 2024last updated February 23, 2024

Over 20 firefighting units and five ambulances were deployed to the scene of the blaze that killed at least four people, authorities said. Prime Minister Sanchez offered "all the help that is necessary" to the city.

Firefighters work at the scene of a fire of apartment building in Valencia
The fire spread rapidly through the 14-story residential buildingImage: Eva Manez/REUTERS

At least four people were killed and 14 more were injured after a fire tore through a block of apartments in Valencia, Spain, on Thursday.

Among the injured were a a seven-year-old child and six firefighters. Of the injured, 12 were transferred to hospitals, according to emergency services.

"It can be confirmed that four people have died," Jorge Suarez Torres, deputy director of emergency services for the Valencia region, said.

Pilar Bernabe, the regional administrator, said on Friday that 14 people "remain untraced" leading to fears that the death toll could rise.

Building rapidly 'reduced to skeleton'

The fire broke out around 5:30 pm local time on Thursday on the fourth floor and spread rapidly through the building, a first responder said.

The 14-story building in the Campanar neighbourhood in western Valencia housed more than 130 apartments.

Spain's TVE public television said the building was "reduced to a skeleton" in no time.

Authorities said 22 firefighting units and five ambulances responded to the incident, while local media reported that a field hospital was also set up at the scene.

"Please stay away from the area of the fire to let the emergency services do their work," Valencia Mayor Maria Jose Catala said on social media.

A burning apartment block in Valencia, Spain
Fourteen people are still missing following the massive blazeImage: Eva Manez/REUTERS

Earlier, residents could be seen trapped on their balconies, waiting to be rescued.

Experts point to flammable cladding

The fire spread so rapidly because the building was covered with highly flammable polyurethane cladding, said Esther Puchades, deputy head of Valencia's Industrial Engineers Association.

One neighbor who witnessed the blaze said said the fire quickly engulfed the 14-story building "as if it were made of cork."

"I couldn't believe what I was seeing. The whole side of the building directly opposite was on fire, from the first floor to the sixth and seventh floor," the witness told Spanish broadcaster TVE. "There was a really strong wind and the fire was spreading to the left at a huge speed."

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said he was "shocked by the terrible fire in a building in Valencia" and offered the city "all the help that is necessary."

"I want to convey my solidarity to all the people affected and recognition to all the emergency personnel already deployed at the scene," Sanchez said on social media.

Valencia Mayor Catala, extending condolences to those who lost friends and family, posted on X, formerly Twitter, that there will be three days of official mourning.

The latest incident comes just months after Spain's deadliest nightclub fire in three decades in October. A devastating fire had swept through a nightclub in Murcia, killing 13 people.

zc, ss/nm (AFP, Reuters, dpa, AP)