MADRID, Spain — Six elderly people died and two others were seriously injured when a fire ripped through a retirement home near Valencia in eastern Spain, the emergency services said on Wednesday.
Ten ambulances rushed to the scene after the fire broke out at around 11:20 pm (2220 GMT) Tuesday, with rescuers evacuating 71 people. Nine fire engines battled the blaze in Moncada, just north of the eastern resort city of Valencia.
Medics initially gave a toll of five dead and three seriously hurt, but one of the injured later died.
“I can confirm that a sixth person has died, another elderly person,” an emergency services spokeswoman told AFP as the local authority declared three days of mourning.
Three men aged 67, 79 and 85 were among the dead, along with three women aged 78, 89 and 95.
As well as the two people seriously injured, 14 others suffered from smoke inhalation, including some of the rescuers.
The fire was raging when the fire engines arrived, firefighters said, consuming one wing of the residence, where many elderly residents were sleeping.
“When the first crew arrived, they found the entire first floor full of smoke with the fire fully developed,” local fireman Rafael Esteve told COPE radio.
The evacuation was “complicated” because many people were already in bed, he added.
“Many were still sleeping, some had been woken up by the smoke. But in general, most were in bed and unable to move.”
It was the smoke “that caused the most harm”, he added.
– ‘Survival there was impossible’ –
Regional fire chief José Miguel Basset said the fire broke out in a room on the first floor, admitting “survival there was impossible”.
Local mayor Amparo Orts told RNE public radio the wing affected by the blaze had been “very badly damaged” and it was not clear whether the residence would be able to continue operating.
While initial reports pointed to an electrical fault in one of the bedrooms, possibly caused by an oxygen machine, Orts said it was too early to establish the cause.
Dozens of people observed a minute of silence outside the residence on Wednesday and Orts declared three days of official mourning, lasting until Friday.
The same residence was hit by fire nearly 14 years ago, claiming the life of a woman in her late 80s with several others treated for smoke inhalation, local media reported.
Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez sent his condolences to the families of the victims, saying he was “following with concern the condition of those injured.
“All our heartfelt support to them and to the community,” he tweeted.
Valencia’s regional leader Ximo Puig also offered his condolences to the families who had lost a loved one in the blaze.
“The Guardia Civil is inspecting the site to determine the cause of this terrible accident and right now the most important thing is that the injured recover,” he said at the scene in remarks broadcast by RNE.