Investigation under way into cause of deadly blaze at Spanish nightclubs

<span>Photograph: José Jordan/AFP/Getty Images</span>
Photograph: José Jordan/AFP/Getty Images

Investigators are trying to determine the cause of a fire that tore through three adjacent nightclubs in the south-eastern Spanish city of Murcia over the weekend, killing at least 13 people.

The blaze broke out at about 6am on Sunday in La Fonda Milagros club, before spreading to the neighbouring Teatre and Golden clubs, officials said.

Francisco Jiménez, the central government’s delegate to Murcia, confirmed 13 people had died in the fire, adding that the victims included individuals with Colombian, Nicaraguan, Ecuadorian and Spanish nationality. Two people were still missing on Monday afternoon.

Murcia city council said it appeared that the Teatre and La Fonda Milagros nightclubs had been operating without a licence since January 2022 after planning concerns were raised about the decision to split the original Teatre club into two venues: Teatre and La Fonda Milagros.

Antonio Navarro, Murcia’s councillor for urban planning, said the clubs had been ordered to close in October last year, adding that the council would be taking legal action against the company that owned the venues.

“We will find out who bears responsibility for what has happened,” he told a press conference on Monday. “We will be taking action against the Teatre company for failing to comply with the orders to cease [their activities]. We’re talking about an unprecedented tragedy and we will determine responsibility for what happened whatever the cost.”

In a statement posted on its Facebook page, La Fonda Milagros offered its condolences to the victims’ families, adding: “We have been collaborating with the relevant authorities since the very beginning and fully believe they will find out what happened. We will not be making any comment until the investigation into the cause has finished.”

Only three bodies had been identified as of late on Sunday, using their fingerprints. Officials said identification of the remaining bodies could take days, as DNA samples would have to be sent to Madrid for processing.

Related: At least 13 people dead after fire at Spanish nightclub

One person who was at the club sent an audio message to her mother during the fire, saying: “I love you, Mum. We’re going to die, Mum. I love you.” In the background, people could be heard shouting for the lights to be turned on.

It was not clear if the 28-year-old woman was among the dead, but her father, identified only in Spanish media as Jairo, said he had not heard anything further from her.

José Ballesta, the mayor of Murcia, said structural damage to the buildings had made access difficult. “What we are doing right now is trying to extract the bodies, secure the area, care for the families, identify them, which isn’t easy at all,” Ballesta said.

Emergency services cordon off the street in Murcia where a deadly fire spread through three nightclubs
Emergency services cordon off the street in Murcia where a deadly fire spread through three nightclubs. Photograph: Javier Carrion/AFP/Getty Images

Officials said four people, two women aged 22 and 25 and two men in their 40s, were treated for smoke inhalation.

“According to initial information, the fire broke out on the first floor of the nightclub, which has a ground floor and a first floor,” Diego Seral, the national police spokesperson, told Radio Onda Regional de Murcia.

Eleven of the 13 bodies recovered so far were found on the first floor of La Fonda Milagros, while two were found among the rubble on ground floor. The police said the temperature in the night club may have reached between 1,000C and 1,500C, according to La Verdad de Murcia, a local newspaper.

Murcia declared three days of mourning and flags were lowered to half mast outside the city hall.

King Felipe said he felt “pain and dismay” after “this tragic day in Murcia”, and thanked rescue workers.

The prime minister, Pedro Sánchez, expressed “solidarity with the victims and relatives of [those who died in] the tragic fire”.