Valencia fire: Ten bodies found as Spanish police search destroyed apartments

  • Written by Paul Kirby in London and Mark Lewin in Valencia
  • BBC News

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WATCH: Early videos of the Valencia fire show the extent of the fire's spread

Firefighters and forensic authorities in Spain said that 10 bodies were recovered from the rubble of a 14-storey residential complex after it was gutted by fire in Valencia.

Cladding attached to the exterior of the building as well as high winds are being blamed for the building catching fire within minutes.

Authorities say no one else is missing. They also refused to answer questions about the cause of the fire.

Mourning will be held for three days.

It was said earlier that among the missing were a young couple with two young children and two elderly people.

“We can confirm that in the initial inspection, the criminal police identified 10 bodies, 10 dead, and they coincide with the 10 people whose fate we do not know,” Pilar Bernabe, the Spanish government representative in the Valencia region, told reporters.

Ms. Bernabei did not receive questions about the reason, citing the confidentiality of the investigation.

But it is already clear that the fire burned at a terrifying pace through a layer of polyurethane cladding, which is adhered to the building under a very thin layer of aluminium.

The College of Industrial Technical Engineers in Valencia said that was one of the possible causes of the fire, along with strong winds and high temperatures in Valencia on Thursday evening.

“the reason [building] “It burned down very quickly because of this type of cladding,” said Esther Bouchadis, vice-president of the college, who said she had previously inspected the building.

Although the aluminum-clad panels were not considered combustible, this type of cladding was permitted under building regulations at the time of construction, which was completed in 2008, but has since been banned.

But there has been no program to remove the banned cladding, which happened in the UK after the Grenfell Tower fire in 2017, where the process continues.

The fire is believed to have broken out on the fourth floor of the larger of the two 14-storey buildings, engulfing it within minutes and then spreading to the neighboring building. Firefighters were unable to reach higher than the twelfth floor.

The charred shells of two adjacent buildings in the Campinar neighborhood were all that remained as investigators searched inside.

First, on Friday, they had to use drones until the temperatures dropped. Wisps of smoke can still be seen rising from the tops of destroyed residential buildings.

Image source, Reuters/Eva Manez

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Firefighters were not able to enter the charred ruins of the apartments until after midday on Friday

As the scale of the tragedy was confirmed, stories emerged of individual heroism as flames engulfed the facade of the building, leaving residents trapped.

One caretaker, a man named only Julian, was widely praised for rushing from door to door as the fire raged in an attempt to get people to safety.

A resident named Manuel said that he was at home in the apartment building when he saw the fire spreading.

“When I saw the flames passing through the metal sheets, I told my mother and the neighbors inside who didn't know. We all went down the stairs,” he told Spanish television.

He added that within 10 to 15 minutes they became surrounded by a black cloud.

Among the 15 injured were a number of firefighters, and by Friday evening, two of them remained in hospital, although their lives were not in danger.

Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez visited the site of the destroyed residential blocks and promised to provide assistance to local authorities in their response to the tragedy. “We would like to express our solidarity, love and sympathy to the families of the victims of this horrific fire,” he said.

“We are here for whatever is needed,” added Science Minister Diana Morant.

The head of the regional government of Valencia, Carlos Mazzone, said he was working with the city authority to provide housing and basic needs for those whose homes were destroyed.

In total, the fire destroyed 138 apartments housing 450 people.

Valencian residents are collecting food, clothes and toiletries for displaced survivors of the fire.

Saturday's La Liga match at Valencia's Mestalla stadium has been postponed as a sign of respect for the victims. The club said it was devastated by the horrific fire on the city's Avenida Maestro Rodrigo.

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