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High-rise building fire in Valencia: “It was all over in three or four hours”

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High-rise building fire in Valencia: “It was all over in three or four hours”

As of: February 23, 2024 10:12 p.m

After the serious high-rise fire in Valencia, the number of deaths has risen to at least nine. Many people were particularly shocked at how quickly the flames burned through the facade.

The burned-out high-rise building in Valencia was still smoking when firefighters ventured into the building for the first time at midday. Behind the charred facades, they carefully work their way through the residential building, which may be in danger of collapsing, looking for missing people – and the reasons for the devastating fire. At least nine people were killed and 15 were injured. In the meantime, the authorities had assumed ten deaths.

Spain’s Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez took a look at the situation at the scene of the accident at midday. Sanchez thanked the emergency services and announced help for the victims. “We are here to offer our help to the government of the city and the region,” he said. “To find out what happened and how we can help the families who were victims of this terrible tragedy.”

Modern house from the noughties

The fire broke out in an apartment in the 14-story building on Thursday evening and quickly spread across the entire facade. Strong winds fanned the flames.

The speed with which the fire spread from one apartment to the entire complex shocked many Spaniards. After all, it is a modern residential building from the noughties. “It spread so quickly,” recalls an eyewitness. “You can see from the facade how quickly it happened. It was all over in three or four hours.”

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Construction reason for the rapid spread?

Experts suspect that the reason for the explosive spread of the fire could be the construction of the house. Architect David Calvo suspects that there could be highly flammable plastic panels behind the aluminum exterior cladding that could have caught fire due to increased air supply. The strong wind also played a role.

“There is an air chamber,” he explains. It is called “ventilated facade” because the external cladding is not attached to the load-bearing facade that forms the interior of the apartment. “And there, in this chamber, air currents can arise that can create a chimney effect. And that further fuels the fire and makes it more voracious.”

For the approximately 450 residents of the building, it is now a matter of getting back on their feet quickly. Many of them stayed in hotels or with relatives at night. Because they couldn’t take anything with them in such a hurry, neighbors collected clothes and blankets that night. “We are in shock and wanted to help the families quickly. Some came out of the building almost naked,” they say.

Three days of mourning declared

Valencia Mayor María José Catalá said Valencia had never experienced such a tragedy and declared a three-day mourning period for the city.

The president of the regional government, Carlos Mazón, from the conservative People’s Party, promises those affected concrete aid payments of 6,000 to 10,000 euros: “Money for urgently needed expenses. For clothing, taxis, food.” Help for those who would have suddenly lost everything. “And whether they are with relatives or in a hotel, they need to know that the essentials are taken care of,” said Mazón.

The Valencia fire shocked people across Spain. Now the country hopes that the missing people will be found and the reasons for the disaster will be clarified.

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Anna Mundt, ARD Madrid, tagesschau, February 23, 2024 4:57 p.m

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