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Spain nightclub ravaged by fire ignored closure order

By Jose Jordan / AFP Published Oct 03, 2023 9:48 am

A Spanish nightclub ravaged by a weekend fire that killed 13 people had ignored a closure order in 2022, officials said Monday, Oct. 2 as investigators probed the cause of the tragedy. 

Questions multiplied over the ferocity of the blaze, Spain's deadliest nightclub fire in three decades, with officials saying all the people listed as missing had been found. 

The fire erupted on Sunday, Oct. 1 in a warehouse housing two discos, Teatre and Fonda Milagros, located on the outskirts of Murcia, a city in southeastern Spain.

The venue was popular with Latin Americans and among the dead were victims from Colombia, Ecuador, and Nicaragua, as well as Spaniards, a government spokesman said.

The two nightclubs had been slapped with a closure order by city hall in January 2022, deputy mayor Antonio Navarro told reporters. 

He said the company running the venue only had a license for Teatre but had undertaken work to divide the space in half to create a second venue, Fonda Milagros, which suffered the brunt of the fire. 

He didn't say why the two venues were still operating but vowed to get to the bottom of who was responsible.

But Maria Dolores Abellan, a spokeswoman for Teatre, told Murcia's Channel 7 television that the club had safety procedures in place "and its license was in order."

Speaking to Antena3 television, Abellan said the clubs were managed by "completely different companies" despite being in the same warehouse and that Teatre had recently passed a safety inspection.

"It passed the latest inspection but I don't remember the date. These discos are inspected regularly and must have security procedures in place... or they wouldn't be able to operate," she said.

View of the damaged roof after the fire at the Spain nightclub

'We're going to die'

After combing through the wreckage, firemen left the venue on Monday with Mayor Jose Ballesta confirming that the five people listed missing on Monday morning had all been found. 

"The search is now over as all the missing people and the victims have been found and forensic and legal experts have been able to enter the venue," he told Telecinco television, confirming the toll of 13 dead. 

Police suspect the fire broke out in Fonda Milagros then spread to Teatre and onto an adjacent club called Golden. 

"The fatalities were all concentrated in a very small area in Fonda," explained police spokesman Diego Seral saying that those inside had been celebrating a birthday.

The fire appears to have moved through the air conditioning vents "which is why it spread so quickly" explained Francisco Jimenez, the central government's representative in Murcia. 

A man named Jairo told reporters his 28-year-old daughter was inside one of the clubs, saying he'd heard nothing since she left a desperate voicemail in the morning.

"Mum, I love you. We're going to die," a young woman could be heard weeping down the phone with loud shouting behind her. 

A firefighter leaves the building where at least thirteen people were killed in a fire at a nightclub in Murci.

Six victims identified by fingerprints

By Monday evening, a police spokesman confirmed to AFP that "six of the victims have been identified by their fingerprints."

"We must be patient with the identification of the bodies. The bodies are very badly burned and it is going to be very difficult for experts to work on them," Jimenez added.

Bars and restaurants in Murcia closed on Sunday as a mark of respect for the victims, and on Monday, city hall observed a minute's silence at noon as it began three days of mourning.

"We are devastated," Murcia's regional leader Fernando Lopez Miras said after meeting the victims' families. 

"There is nothing we can say to console relatives and friends of the victims. There are just no words."

It was the worst nightclub fire since 1990 when 43 people died in a blaze in the northeastern city of Zaragoza.

Spain's worst-ever nightclub fire occurred in December 1983, when 81 people were killed in Madrid. Smoke, a failure in the lighting system, and a closed emergency door all contributed to the disaster. (AFP)