At least ten people died in the fire that ravaged a residential building on the night of Thursday to Friday, February 23, in Valencia, Spain, according to Pilar Bernabé, the prefect of the Valencia community.

According to a source within the municipality interviewed by Agence France-Presse (AFP) and who requested anonymity, nineteen people are missing. This source did not specify whether these were individuals believed to be inside the building or simply people whose families have not heard from them. The mayor of Valencia, Maria José Catala, mentioned the figure of “nine to fifteen” missing, while Ms. Bernabé mentioned fourteen missing.

Emergency services said earlier that fourteen people were treated for varying degrees of injuries, including a 7-year-old child, and twelve of them were transferred to hospitals in Spain’s third city. Six are firefighters, “which shows the intensity of the work they are doing,” said Jorge Suarez Torres, while the firefighters had not yet put out the flames around 11 p.m. The strong wind blowing Thursday in Valencia made their work more difficult, according to the authorities.

The spectacular fire broke out around 5:30 p.m. Thursday, on the fourth of the fourteen floors of this building in the Campanar district, before spreading at high speed to the other floors through the facade. None of the building’s 138 apartments appear to have been spared the flames.

According to Spanish media, the location of the bodies was made possible by drones, and Suarez explained that firefighters could only work outside the building.

A polyurethane coating potentially involved

Twenty-two teams of firefighters were sent to the site to try to put out the flames, rescuers said on X. Eight medical units were also at the scene of the disaster, where a field hospital was set up.

Questioned by Spanish television, the owner of a flower shop located near the building assured that this building had been built at most fourteen years ago and that the hundred apartments it housed were currently occupied. Another resident explained on the same channel that the building had caught fire “within minutes”. “It’s like it’s made of straw,” he said. “I didn’t believe what I saw. The wind was then blowing enormously and the fire was spreading at an impressive speed,” he added.

“Dismay” and “solidarity”

Speaking on regional television A Punt, Esther Puchades, number two of the regional branch of the association of industrial engineers (Cogiti), questioned the presence on the facade of a polyurethane coating, which is very flammable. In June 2017, Grenfell Tower in London caught fire like a torch, with the flames spreading at high speed due to the cladding placed on the facade. Seventy-two people were killed.

“We ask residents of other areas of the city not to approach the fire to facilitate the work of the mobilized rescue teams,” Valencia Mayor Maria José Catala wrote on X.

The Spanish Prime Minister, Pedro Sanchez, said he was “dismayed by the terrible fire in a building in Valencia” on the social network. The socialist leader announced that he had offered local authorities “all necessary assistance” from the State and conveyed his “solidarity to all those affected”.

In a tweet, the Spanish royal palace announced that it was following the development of the fire “with concern” and assured its support for the emergency services.

The country was recently marked by a dramatic fire which left thirteen dead at the beginning of October in a nightclub in Murcia (South-East).