Valencia fire: Ten bodies found in Spanish police search of burnt-out apartment

  • Paul Kirby in London and Mark Lowen in Valencia
  • BBC News

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WATCH: Early videos of the Valencia fire show how the flames spread

Firefighters and forensics officials in Spain say 10 bodies have been pulled from the rubble of a 14-story apartment complex in Valencia.

Cladding attached to the exterior of the building and strong winds are also said to have caused the fire to engulf the building within minutes.

Officials said no one else was missing. They also refused to answer questions about the cause of the fire.

Three days of mourning will be observed.

The missing were earlier reported to include a young couple with two young children and two elderly people.

“In the initial examination we can confirm that the forensic police have found 10 bodies, 10 dead, joined by 10 unaccounted for,” Pilar Bernabe, the Spanish government's representative in the Valencia region, told reporters.

Ms. Bernabe, citing the confidentiality of the investigation, did not take questions about the motive.

But it was already clear that the flames were burning at an alarming rate through a layer of polyurethane cladding attached to the building under a very thin layer of aluminium.

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

“The reason [building] It burned very fast because of this type of cladding,” said College Vice President Esther Buchatz, who said she had previously inspected the building.

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

But there is no plan to remove the restricted enclosures, which happened in England following the Grenfell Tower fire in 2017, where the process continues.

The fire broke out on the fourth floor of the two 14-storey blocks, gutting it within minutes and then spreading to a nearby area. Firefighters could not go above the 12th floor.

When investigators searched the interior, all that remained were the charred shells of two adjacent buildings in the Campenaar neighborhood.

Initially the drones had to be used until the temperature dropped on Friday. Plumes of smoke could still be seen billowing from the tops of the dilapidated flats.

image source, Reuters/Eva Manes

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Firefighters were able to enter the charred ruins of the residences only after noon on Friday.

As the scale of the tragedy was confirmed, stories of individual heroism emerged as fire tore through the facade of the building and trapped residents.

One of the caretakers, a man named Julian, was widely praised for rushing from house to house as people caught fire trying to get them to safety.

A resident, identified only as Manuel, said he was in his apartment building when he saw the fire spread.

“When I saw the flames passing through the sheet metal, who knew my mother and the neighbors. We all went down the stairs,” he told Spanish television.

Within 10 to 15 minutes they were enveloped in black clouds, he said.

Many of the 15 injured were firefighters and two of them remained in hospital as of Friday evening, though their lives were not life-threatening.

Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez visited the scene where the apartments were destroyed, pledging to help local authorities respond to the tragedy. “We want to express our solidarity, love and sympathy to the families of the victims of this terrible fire,” he said.

Science Minister Diana Morant added: “We're here for whatever is needed.”

Carlos Mazón, president of the Valencia regional government, said he was working with city authorities to provide housing and basic needs to those whose homes were destroyed.

A total of 138 dwellings housing 450 people were destroyed in the fire.

Valencians are collecting food, clothes and toiletries for those displaced by the fire.

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

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