Tragedy struck in the early hours of Sunday morning in Murcia, southeastern Spain, as a devastating nightclub fire claimed the lives of at least 13 people.
The blaze engulfed the two-storey "Teatre" nightclub, also known as "Fonda Milagros," and posed a challenging task for emergency responders.
The fire, which ignited at approximately 6:00am local time (0400 GMT), was described as "extremely serious" by Murcia's Mayor, Jose Ballesta. As the flames raged, firefighters worked tirelessly to extinguish them, succeeding in their efforts by 8:00am. However, the aftermath revealed the grim toll of the disaster, with numerous casualties.
Rescue workers continued their efforts to search through the debris, and authorities expressed concern that the death toll could still rise. The complex nature of the rescue operation presented a "risk of collapse," making it a daunting task to retrieve victims.
Four individuals sustained injuries during the incident, all suffering from smoke inhalation. Among them were two women aged 22 and 25 and two men in their forties.
The nightclub tragedy occurred during a birthday party on Saturday night, adding to the heart-wrenching nature of the incident. Preliminary information suggests that the fire originated on the nightclub's first floor, which included a ground floor and a first floor, according to Diego Seral, the national police spokesman.
Forensic and judicial police experts were deployed to the scene to investigate the cause of the fire, as authorities grappled with the scale of the tragedy.
Video footage released by the city's firefighting brigade showed firefighters bravely confronting bright orange flames inside the venue, even as bar tables with untouched drinks stood nearby.
The response to the incident involved more than 40 firefighters and 12 emergency vehicles. Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez expressed solidarity with the victims and their families, acknowledging the gravity of the situation.
Murcia's town hall conveyed its deep regret over the accident and extended condolences to those affected. Mayor Ballesta announced three days of mourning and established a reception centre for the relatives of the victims.
The nightclub fire in Murcia serves as a grim reminder of past nightclub disasters in Spain, such as the floor collapse in Tenerife in 2017, which injured 40 individuals from various countries, and the 1990 nightclub fire in Zaragoza, which claimed the lives of 43 people.