Deadly fire in abandoned and occupied industrial unit in Badalona

At least three vulnerable people killed as building was inhabited for eight years

A fire in an industrial unit in Badalona, on December 10, 2020 (by Jordi Pujolar)
A fire in an industrial unit in Badalona, on December 10, 2020 (by Jordi Pujolar) / ACN

ACN | Barcelona

December 10, 2020 09:05 AM

At least three people have died on Wednesday evening in a fire that broke out in Badalona, a city just north of Barcelona, in an industrial unit abandoned and occupied by vulnerable people. Firefighters announced shortly before 8pm that they believe there are no further deaths in the warehouse.  

The firefighters only managed to bring the fire under control on Thursday at 8am, more than 11 hours after it broke out, after working to put it out for the whole night.

Just before midnight, 17 people had been reported injured, with two in critical condition, four serious, and 11 with mild injuries.

Some of the people given care by the emergency services had left the building through windows.

As of Thursday morning, the firefighters have not been able to access the industrial unit due to the fire and the condition of the building, and do not rule out the possibility of uncovering further deaths.

The building had been inhabited by vulnerable people for a decade, according to the local council. 

Cause uncertain

The Catalan police, Mossos d'Esquadra, have not been able to access the building yet due to its current state, so they have not been able to investigate the reasons for the deadly incident. 

The firefighters have not been able to enter either, and they have not been able to identify the origin of the flames. The works could last for some days.

The emergency services expect to examine the building through its windows from the outside this Thursday morning. 

Debate on why no action has been taken

Given that the industrial unit has been occupied for roughly a decade, many questions have been raised on Thursday as to why no administration has taken any step to avoid these people living in such precarious conditions

Vice president Pere Aragonès remarked that the fire is a "tragedy" on the "economic misery". The acting president of the Catalan government guaranteed that the administration will offer every means to help the people affected, and highlighted the vulnerability of the people living there, as they did not want to avail of social services due to their administratively irregular situation.

He says the exact number of people present in the building at the time of the fire is not known, but it is estimated that it would be between 70 and 150. 

The mayor of Badalona, Xavier García Albiol, says that the council knew "perfectly" of the conditions surrounding the occupied industrial building.

The People's Party politician has denounced that in the last three years, illegal activities were carried out inside the building such as the sale of drugs and that robberies have caused problems for the area.

However, he defends that the property had been assigned for housing, and says that ten minutes before the fire warning a joint action of two police forces had been carried out in the area.