14 missing after fire ravages building in Spain

Published February 24, 2024
FIREFIGHTERS work at the apartment building in Valencia, on Friday.—Reuters
FIREFIGHTERS work at the apartment building in Valencia, on Friday.—Reuters

VALENCIA: Firefighters were searching on Friday for 14 people, including a couple, their toddler and two-week-old baby, still missing after a huge fire ripped through an apartment block in the Spanish city of Valencia, killing five people and injuring 15.

The blaze, fanned by strong winds, engulfed the block within half an hour on Thursday evening, witnesses said. An insurance expert said it may have spread so fast due to the use of a plastic material on the facade, a comment evoking memories of the deadly Grenfell Tower fire in London in 2017.

Firefighters with masks and oxygen tanks worked their way through the charred building looking for bodies or survivors, though a spokesman for the fire service said the chances of anybody having survived such a blaze were slim.

The wind was so strong at times that it had pushed back the water being hosed by firefighters, a policeman said.

Dental experts headed to Valencia from other parts of Spain to help identify charred bodies, while police collected DNA samples from relatives for the same purpose.

Visiting the scene on Friday, Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said residents “had lost everything in a matter of minutes in this terrible fire”.

Pope Francis was praying for all those affected by the blaze, his spokesman said.

Panic

Panicked residents had rushed to balconies to plea for help as burning embers fell to the ground during the fire. At least two people were rescued from their balconies on cranes. “I told my daughter and mother-in-law to leave, other people stayed inside,” a resident called Adriana told Reuters.

The young couple still missing on Friday had taken refuge in their bathroom with their two baby and toddler from where they had messaged friends, residents told state broadcaster RTVE. Police did not respond to a request for further details.

Published in Dawn, February 24th, 2024

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