Home » Valencia: Fire inferno with at least nine deaths shocks Spain

Valencia: Fire inferno with at least nine deaths shocks Spain

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Valencia: Fire inferno with at least nine deaths shocks Spain

At least nine dead and 15 injured are the sad results of the major fire in Valencia. But the sheer extent of the fire in a modern building is also shocking.

“As if the building were made of cork, it suddenly burst into flames and was destroyed in a very short time,” a neighbor of the burned-out residential complex in Valencia told the state TV station RTVE. After the fire catastrophe in the Mediterranean metropolis, Spain is in shock not only because of the mourning of nine dead, 15 injured and one more missing person. Ten deaths had previously been reported, but the police corrected their information on Friday evening. What also caused horror was the rapid speed with which the fire spread from one apartment to the entire relatively new complex.

Four dead bodies were initially recovered during the night. It was a couple and their two children, as the newspaper “La Vanguardia” reported, citing investigative circles. On Friday, the judiciary confirmed a fifth victim. In the afternoon, the representative of the central government in the autonomous community of Valencia, Pilar Bernabé, initially announced that a total of ten bodies had been found during an initial search of the burnt ruins, but later clarified that there were nine. However, the search for missing people in the huge fire ruins should continue.

Strong winds further fan the fire

Valencia’s mayor, María José Catalá, said in the morning that up to 15 residents of the residential complex that had completely burned out the day before were missing. In the evening there was only talk of one missing person; the others could either have been located or were found dead.

The engineer David Higuera can only explain the explosive spread of the fire with combustible parts of the facade cladding. The huge black cloud of smoke above the building can hardly be explained in any other way. Strong winds further fueled the fire.

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Millions of Spaniards live in such large residential complexes, mostly built during the construction boom before the financial crisis of 2008. These are not social housing, but often condominiums for higher demands, with a communal pool, chic green areas, elevator and underground parking. Quite a few residents of such complexes are probably taking a closer look at the facade of their home with concern.

Carlos and Dani, two 16-year-old boys, said they watched “stunned” from a nearby park as the fire spread toward the roof within minutes on Thursday afternoon. “It flickered along the metal plates of the facade or behind it, but always upwards,” Carlos told the newspaper “El País”. The two also reported people screaming for help on their balconies. When firefighters used a turntable ladder and rescue basket to rescue two residents from a balcony that was already threatened by flames, people in front of the building applauded and cheered.

The extent becomes visible with daylight

The images from Valencia reminded engineer Higuera of the Grenfell fire disaster in London. In June 2017, 72 people died in a high-rise building fire. There, too, the fire had spread rapidly through the facade insulation.

According to fire protection expert Esther Puchadas, who certified the house in Valencia, the facade was insulated with polyurethane. That acted as an accelerant. In view of the fire disaster, the approval of this insulation material must be reconsidered, she told the TV station À Punt. Higuera described the insulation material as “solid gasoline.”

The full extent of the destruction became visible at first light on Friday. All that remained of the residential complex, which was completed just a few years ago and of which one wing is 14 stories high and the other is twelve stories high, are charred facades in front of a reinforced concrete framework. “Valencia has never experienced such a tragedy,” said Valencia Mayor María José Catalá and declared a three-day mourning period for the city.

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Football games by the city’s clubs canceled

The fire disaster caused consternation throughout Spain. TV stations reported live in special programs. The government and opposition expressed their condolences to the victims’ families and promised support to those affected. On Friday, Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez traveled to the scene of the accident and assured those affected of state help. Some of the now homeless residents were staying with relatives or friends, others were taken to hotels and guesthouses.

Because of the major fire, the football games planned for the weekend by the city’s clubs were also canceled. The Spanish football association RFEF has granted a request from first division club Valencia CF, the club announced on Friday. The team, which is currently in eighth place in the table, should have played against Granada CF (second-to-last place in the table) on Saturday. The second division team UD Levante’s match against FC Andorra on Saturday was also canceled. Now new dates would have to be found. The Spanish league also announced that a minute’s silence for the victims would be held at all games this weekend.

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