Valencia mourns after devastating apartment block fire leaves nine dead

Huge blaze raises questions about safety of Spain’s residential buildings

A fire that engulfed a large block of flats in the Spanish city of Valencia has claimed nine victims and raised questions about the safety of the country’s residential buildings.

The blaze began on Thursday afternoon, reportedly on one of the lower floors of the building, in the Campanar district of the Mediterranean city. Within half-an-hour, virtually the entire building was ablaze as residents abandoned the block, which contained about 140 apartments and was home to approximately 450 people.

However, others were stranded inside. One couple, a Portuguese woman and a Belgian man, were rescued from the balcony of their flat by firefighters on a crane.

“We spent two hours on the balcony but we’re alive, which is what matters,” the woman told reporters.


Fire crews worked throughout the night, aided by an emergency military unit, bringing the fire under control by the morning and leaving the building itself a burnt-out husk. According to the central government, 14 people were reported missing.

In the afternoon, 24 hours after the fire started, it was reported that a total of nine people had died after firefighters had scoured the remains of the building in search of victims. The central government’s representative in the Valencia region, Pilar Bernabé, said that no more residents remained to be accounted for, given that several missing people had been located and identified throughout the day.

Among the dead were four members of the same family: a couple and their two small children.

“This is a very sad moment, we have some tough days ahead,” the city’s mayor, María José Catalá, said.

Another 15 people received medical attention, including seven firefighters. On Friday evening, six people were still in hospital.

Prime minister Pedro Sánchez visited the site, thanking the emergency services.

“At these moments we value more than ever the extraordinary efforts of our public servants, the firefighters, the emergency military unit and the police,” Mr Sánchez said.

The regional government of Valencia declared three days’ official mourning as messages of support poured in from across Spain and abroad.

In a missive, Pope Francis confirmed to “the people of Valencia and all the families of those affected of his spiritual closeness”, according to Vatican News.

Meanwhile, the national football federation postponed this weekend’s top-tier game between Valencia and Granada, in tribute to the victims.

The local government announced that about 130 unused apartments would be made available to the residents who had lost their homes, many of who had spent the night in nearby hotels on Thursday.

A Valencia court has opened an investigation into the incident, with the cause of the fire still unclear.

Although high winds were believed to have helped the blaze spread, the cladding of the building has also come under scrutiny.

Several experts told Spanish media that the cladding was highly flammable, in part due to its design which allowed air to ventilate through it. There have also been reports that the type of cladding used had been banned in recent years because it posed a risk.

Guy Hedgecoe

Guy Hedgecoe

Guy Hedgecoe is a contributor to The Irish Times based in Spain