Read in Catalan

Four people are now known to have died and a total of 19 are missing after the enormous fire that swept through a fourteen-storey apartment building located on Carrer Maestro Rodrigo in the city of València this Thursday evening. 

"We have to confirm that the worst hypothesis has taken place, and there are four people deceased," said Jorge Suárez, emergency service subdirector in Valencia, around midnight. "We can't give any more information than that," he added. In the early hours of Friday morning the firefighters were still fighting the fire in the Campanar neighbourhood residential complex. And moreover they were doing so purely from the exterior. "The characteristics of the fire don't allow us to attack the interior parts of the building so we are fighting from outside, on all facades," said Suárez. 

Also overnight, the València city council has announced that a total of 19 people are known to be missing as a result of the blaze. In addition, it is known that 14 people were injured. With the exception of two women who were treated on the spot, the rest have been transferred to different hospitals in the city. Six of the injured are firefighters. 

For reasons currently unknown, flames began to spread rapidly through the Campanar district building at around half past five this afternoon, starting in a flat in one of the middle floors of the building and quickly rising through the upper floors. Residents of the 138 apartments in the complex reported that they were alerted and most were able to evacuate before the fire quickly propagated. However, fanned by strong winds, the fire tore through a large part of the building and spread to an adjoining building, in which two people, unable to escape, took refuge on a balcony to evade the flames before they were dramatically rescued by emergency services.

Building was clad with flammable material 

Several experts have this Thursday evening blamed the rapid propagation of the flames on flammable material used in the construction of the building. Civil engineering professor of the Polytechnic University of Valencia, Antonio Hospitaler, explained that the speed with which the flames have spread is due to the fact that the facade was built using a combustible material. A construction specialist who inspected the building several years ago, Esther Puchades, confirmed that the facade contained polyurethane, which is highly flammable. "This is what caused the building to burn in less than half an hour," she said in statements to À Punt television. The building was built in 2005.

 A field hospital was set up nearby to attend to victims. The medical and emergency operation deployed is already the largest since that set up due to the accident in the city's subway in 2006. Large volunteer efforts were underway to assist victims with clothing and essential goods. 

The westerly wind that was blowing all day Thursday in València left gusts of between 50 and 60 kilometres per hour at the time of the start of the fire, while the humidity was "very low", less than 30% for much of the day. Furthermore, the temperatures have been "very anomalous" for the end of February, 24.5°C at the airport at 12:20 p.m. and 24.3 °C in València at 12:30 p.m.