Fire in High-Rise Apartment Complex Kills at Least 4 in Valencia, Spain

Fire in High-Rise Apartment Complex Kills at Least 4 in Valencia, Spain

A day after a fire roared through a high-rise residential complex in the Spanish city of Valencia, killing at least four people and leaving at least 14 missing, there were fears on Friday that those numbers could rise, because high temperatures inside the charred structure have prevented emergency workers from searching inside.

Firefighters and police officers rushed to the scene shortly after 5.30 p.m. on Thursday as the fire engulfed the entire pair of buildings, one of which was 14 stories tall, within half an hour.

The complex, made up of two tower blocks with a total of 138 apartments, was built during Spain’s construction boom in the mid-2000s, Luis Sendra, the dean of the Official College of Architects of the Community of Valencia, said in an interview.

Firefighters will have to wait until the structures cool down to be able to determine the exact materials used in the buildings’ cladding, Mr. Sendra said, adding that gaps between the layers of what appeared to be sheets of aluminum and polyurethane could have served as a chimney and facilitated the spread of flames.

“It’s too early to know the exact cause,” Mr. Sendra said. “But the speed with which it spread would indicate similarities with Grenfell Tower in London.”

Seventy-two people were killed in that blaze, which consumed a high-rise apartment building in northwestern London in 2017. In that building, flammable materials had been used in the panels known as cladding, which accelerated the spread of the fire.

Mr. Sendra also told the Spanish news media that although the use of aluminum on building facades was allowed in Spain’s building regulations, the use of polyurethane as insulation is not permitted.

Speaking at a news conference on Friday morning, Carlos Mazón, the president of the Valencia regional government, announced a three-day period of mourning. He said that seven firefighters had been injured in the blaze.

Firefighters reached the taller building from the 12th floor on Thursday and were able to evacuate some residents. Dramatic footage in the Spanish news media showed one firefighter jumping from the seventh floor to a safety mat on the ground below. Two residents were also rescued from a balcony after becoming trapped by flames.

The police blocked off roads in the area to clear access for firefighters and to avoid injuries from chunks of burning material falling to the ground. Local taxi drivers also lined up to offer free transportation to fleeing residents to the hotels that were being used as temporary shelters.

Valencia’s municipal government said in a statement that a relief point had been set up in a nearby building to offer practical and psychological support to surviving residents. Another meeting point was offering information and support for family members of missing people, it said.

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Bruce Killigang

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