Casualties confirmed as huge fire guts high-rise residence in Valencia

At least four people have died and many more still missing after a severe fire broke out at a multi-storey apartment block in Valencia, Spain.

On 22 February 2024, at 5.30 pm local time, a fire started in one of the residences of the 14-storey building, which is made up of 138 apartments and home to 450 residents. As reported by the Spanish daily El País, flames rapidly spread up the façade exterior and to an adjoining apartment block.

Approximately 20 fire crews were dispatched to tackle the flames, according to BBC News, with video footage showing firefighters rescuing residents who had become trapped on their balconies. Also supporting the rescue effort was the Military Emergency Unit. Firefighters were still working to cool down the outside of the building almost six hours after the fire started, with plumes of smoke surrounding the site. Locals were urged to keep away from the area so as not to “hinder the work of emergency teams”.

During a press conference, the deputy director general of Valencia’s emergency services, Jorge Suarez, confirmed that four people had lost their lives. It is understood that 15 people were injured, including multiple firefighters, and were being treated for fractures, burns, and smoke inhalation. 112 Comunitat Valenciana, the service that handles emergency calls, declared that between 9 and 15 people were still missing following the incident.

Expressing his condolences on X (formerly Twitter), Prime Minister for Spain Pedro Sánchez said: “Dismayed by the terrible fire in a building in Valencia... I want to convey my solidarity to all the people affected and recognition to all the emergency personnel already deployed at the scene."

Mayor María José Catalá said: “There are no words that describe the enormous pain that the city of Valencia is feeling right now. All our support and deepest condolences to the families and friends of the victims.

Hugely grateful to the security and emergency teams who continue to intervene in this devastating fire. You are an example of professionalism, courage, and dedication.”

President of Generalitat Valencia, the community’s autonomous government, Carlos Mazón Guixot announced three days of official mourning for the lives lost. A statement released on Friday reads

On the evening of February 22, 2024, a fire was declared in residential buildings in the Campanar district of the city of Valencia, which progressed extraordinarily quickly and caused the irreparable loss of human life, in addition to the total destruction of homes of more than a hundred families.

Right now, when the extinguishing work is still going on, it is necessary to recognise and thank the great effort of the public emergency services, civil protection and health services, as well as the people and entities who, selflessly, are collaborating in the care of the victims.”

While an investigation into the cause of the fire is expected to follow, concerns have been raised over the construction of the towers and the possible presence of flammable materials that could have aided the rapid spread of the fire, as shared by several media outlets including Reuters.

 

(Photograph by 112 Comunitat Valenciana)