Berliner Tageblatt - Valencia falls silent to recall housing block fire victims

SLAC 0.05% 10.305 $
CMSC 0% 24.16 $
SCS -0.49% 12.18 $
NGG 0.52% 65 $
AZN -0.75% 68.93 $
RIO -0.42% 65.99 $
RYCEF -2.72% 4.97 $
GSK -0.34% 40.66 $
RBGPF -4.06% 51.618 $
RELX -0.22% 41.77 $
BTI -1.68% 28.62 $
BCE -2.12% 32.11 $
CMSD 0% 24.51 $
BCC -1.26% 149.99 $
VOD -0.84% 8.3 $
BP -0.53% 39.44 $
JRI -1.35% 11.11 $
Valencia falls silent to recall housing block fire victims
Valencia falls silent to recall housing block fire victims / Photo: © AFP

Valencia falls silent to recall housing block fire victims

Hundreds of people observed five minutes of silence in the Mediterranean port city of Valencia on Saturday to honour the 10 victims of a huge fire that ripped through a residential high-rise two days earlier.

Text size:

As the clock struck midday, the large crowd gathered outside city hall fell silent, some wearing dark glasses to mask red eyes, while others wiped away tears as they recalled the victims of the terrible blaze that began just before nightfall on Thursday.

At the end, onlookers broke into spontaneous applause as officials embraced family members who lost loved ones in the tragedy, their faces drawn with exhaustion, shock and sorrow.

"There are no words to describe the pain this city feels at this moment, and all Valencians are sharing in this pain with this moment of silence and respect," said mayor Maria Jose Catala.

By Friday evening, rescuers had found nine bodies, but discovered another on Saturday morning, officials said as the city observed three days of mourning over the tragedy.

The fire devastated a 14-storey high-rise and an adjoining 10-storey block which together housed 138 flats.

"It was just horrifying. I live in that neighbourhood and it was very close, I saw the whole thing from the street," 60-year-old Concha Lopez told AFP outside the town hall, her voice breaking as she wiped away tears.

"These people have lost everything."

The blaze spread like lightning, the flames quickly visible in every window, sending clouds of black smoke high into the air over the western Campanar district, dramatic footage showed.

"I get goosebumps just thinking about it, and it happened again during the minute of silence," said 75-year-old Sara Navia.

"It's just terrible. We've got to help these people in any way we can because they've been left with nothing but the clothes on their backs."

Adrian Sobrino Moral, a 33-year-old factory worker, said it was hard to take in just how much the victims had lost in such a short space of time.

"Just imagine leaving home to go to work then on your way back, the neighbours call to say your flat is on fire, that's really tough. You spend your whole life working to save money then you lose everything and are suddenly left in the street," he told AFPTV.

"Nobody should have to go through that."

- All missing accounted for -

Earlier, forensic experts found another body, raising the deathtoll to 10, with Pilar Bernabe, who heads the Spanish government's delegation in Valencia saying they would now start the "complex" task of identifying the dead via DNA tests.

Experts said the building was covered with highly flammable cladding, which could account for the rapid spread of the blaze, prompting worried property owners to seek expert advice to ally fears their own homes could be at risk.

"We've had a lot of calls from clients, homeowners associations and others sending us photos and asking if the facade of their building was at risk," said Adrian Ferrando Perez, an architect with Oasis Arquitectura, a private firm in Valencia.

Experts had not yet determined what caused the blaze to spread so quickly, he said, but Spain had changed its building regulations after the 2017 Grenfell Tower tragedy in London when 72 people died in a tower block fire blamed on highly-inflammable cladding.

"At the moment, it's not absolutely clear what kind of cladding the (Valencia) building had... what we did see was the fire moving rapidly across the facade, so they will have to analyse what caused it to propagate so quickly," he told AFPTV.

The fire started on one of the middle floors and within 30 minutes, it had consumed the entire building, fuelled by strong winds of up to 60 kilometres (40 miles) per hour.

"This was like a second Grenfell," said Yegor, a 36-year-old Ukrainian who lost his dog and everything he owned in Thursday's deadly fire and did not want to give his surname.

"That was an old building but this was from 2008. The only safety measures in the building were the fire extinguishers. There was nothing else, not even sprinklers," he told AFP, saying he wanted to see those responsible held accountable for the deadly fire which left some 450 residents homeless.