Fire broke out in an abandoned warehouse occupied by migrants in Badalona, Spain, Wednesday 9 December 2020 | Photo: picture-alliance/J. Mateu
Fire broke out in an abandoned warehouse occupied by migrants in Badalona, Spain, Wednesday 9 December 2020 | Photo: picture-alliance/J. Mateu

In Spain, at least three people have died and nearly 20 others were injured in a fire that destroyed a warehouse housing migrants near Barcelona.

A fire which broke out on Wednesday evening at a warehouse north of Barcelona has left at least three people dead. Up to 200 migrants had been living in the warehouse in squalid conditions, according to the local city hall.

Firefighters said on Thursday that they had found the bodies of three people, but it was possible that more lives had been lost.

The firefighters were continuing to try to stabilize the structure of the warehouse so that they could search for anyone trapped inside, fire chief David Borrell told reporters at the scene. Drones and sniffer dogs were also being used in the search.

"We are trying to determine if there are any signs that there are more people or not," he said.

After the fire in which at least three people died, 10 December 2020 | picture-alliance/D. Zorrakino
After the fire in which at least three people died, 10 December 2020 | picture-alliance/D. Zorrakino

Migrants jumped from burning building

At least 19 people were injured in the blaze, including seven seriously, according to Catalonia's civil protection agency.

Some people were hurt when they jumped from the building, the regional health minister, Alba Verges, said.

Around 30 people were rescued from windows before the roof collapsed at various points, Associated Press (AP) reported.

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said he was following the news "of the tragic fire in Badalona with concern."

"I am deeply sorry for the loss of human life and I am grateful for the great work of the emergency services, who have saved dozens of people from the flames," he said in a Tweet.

The mayor of Badalona, Xavier Garcia Albiol, said authorities had accounted for 60 people "but many escaped through the back windows and fled. Maybe more than one hundred people left."

The building had been occupied for at least eight years, according to Albiol. He said the city hall had started work to empty the building after an increase in drug sales and minor thefts in the area over the past two years.

'Tragedy on top of economic misery'

Catalonia's interim regional leader, Pere Aragones, told Spanish public television TVE that the tragedy had come "on top of the economic misery, which unfortunately many of the affected people faced."

Most of the warehouse residents were reportedly from sub-Saharan Africa and lived by selling goods on the street or collecting scrap metal.

One survivor, Matiga Thiam from Senegal, told AP that he moved into the building after arriving in Spain from Italy six months ago. He and fellow Senegalese Ousmane Ndiaye, who has been in Spain for 14 years, had been surviving on selling scrap metal.

The two men said they couldn't forget the image they saw as they ran out past the building in flames, with other occupants jumping from windows on the second floor.

"They couldn't breath,'' Thiam told AP. "If there is a fire, you know that if you don't jump you will die. You just take a gamble.''

Housing assistance for survivors

Catalonia regional leader Aragones said housing assistance would be offered to those who had been living in the warehouse.

According to Ndiaye, around 150 people from Senegal, Ghana, Gambia and other countries were living in the complex because access to housing is difficult, especially for migrants.

"There are many people who do not want to rent a place for you," the Senegalese man said. "There are people (in the building) who have work but cannot rent an apartment. And if you don't have a place to sleep, you come here."

With AP, AFP, Reuters

 

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