A blaze that tore through an abandoned bank occupied by squatters in the Plaza de Tetuan in central Barcelona on Tuesday, killed four people, including a baby and a three-year-old boy, Catalan firefighters said.
‘While we were battling the fire, we found four people. Emergency services tried to revive them, but unfortunately they failed, they could not do anything to save them,’ the head of the firefighting operation, Angel Lopez, told reporters.
It has been reported that people had been living in the abandoned offices of the bank for two to three years. The building located in a middle-class neighbourhood was cordoned off and surrounded by emergency vehicles on Tuesday. The name of the bank had already been crossed out and the doors were covered with graffiti.
Hours before the fire broke out, police were called to the building because of a dispute among squatters but there is no evidence it was related to the blaze, Catalonia’s interior minister Joan Ignasi Elena told reporters.
‘There are no words to describe the horror of four people dying, among them two very young children, it is something that never should happen. It is horrible news,’ Barcelona Mayor Ada Colau, a former anti-evictions activist, told reporters. Those in the building lived ‘in absolutely precarious conditions’, she added.
Colau said municipal social workers had visited the building and offered food aid to the people who lived there, as well as information on how to get medical care.
‘We also know that there were co-existence problems and that police on more than one occasion were called to the building,’ she said. ‘It is a complicated situation.’
Firefighters rushed to the scene at around 6am after being warned that a blaze had broken out in the building, Lopez, head of the firefighting operation, said.
He said it was not clear how the four dead people were related but Barcelona-based daily newspaper La Vanguardia said they were all members of the same family. The father was from Pakistan and the mother from Romania, the paper said.
Four other people were rescued after seeking refuge on the patio and taken to hospital with smoke inhalation, but their lives were not in danger, firefighters said.
A spokesman for Catalonia’s police force, the Mossos d’Esquadra, said an investigation had been opened into the cause of the fire.
In December 2020, four people were killed after a blaze ripped through an industrial complex occupied by squatters, many of them African migrants, near Barcelona.
Over 100 squatters were believed to be living in precarious conditions at the abandoned complex in Badalona, a suburban town north of the city. In addition to the four deaths, more than 20 people were injured in the blaze.
Mueren cuatro personas en un incendio en Barcelona, dos de ellas menores https://t.co/0KlV38pNOa— RTVE Noticias (@rtvenoticias) November 30, 2021