A court in Spain’s southeastern city of Murcia opened an investigation into a fire that tore through two adjoining discos, killing 13 people. It is the country’s deadliest nightclub fire in more than 30 years.
The discos, Teatre and Fondo Milagros, were popular dance spots, located on the outskirts of town. In January 2022, city officials ordered the venues closed after Teatre’s owner divided the building it was in to establish Fondo Milagros.
The order was disregarded.
The fire erupted just before sunrise Sunday. Authorities said the inferno probably spread quickly through air vents.
A firefighter said that six of the bodies were found clustered in restrooms, perhaps because people were hiding from the smoke, while the other seven bodies were scattered across a mezzanine above the entrance. In the restroom, a wall gave way and covered two of the dead in rubble.
The goal of the probe is to determine whether the fire broke out because of negligence, the city’s top prosecutor Jose Luis Diaz Manzanera said in an interview with La Opinion de Murcia, the local newspaper.
If the tragedy arose from recklessness, he said, those responsible for the deaths could face a maximum of nine years in prison. Diaz Manzanera promised an “exhaustive” search to uncover the truth of what happened.
“We must go centimeter by centimeter, checking everything,” he said. “Let’s see how it ends up. There may have been a short circuit that was not caused by negligence.”
Law enforcement and a team of forensic investigators scoured the site on Monday to gather evidence.
By Monday night, police said that they had identified six victims using fingerprints but that naming the remaining seven would prove “very difficult.”
The victims’ family members have turned in toothbrushes, combs and other toiletries to law enforcement hoping DNA samples can aid in the identification process.
“No father or mother can, or should, have to go through a tragedy like this,” Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said on Tuesday. He called the eyewitness testimony “heartbreaking.”