At least three dead in Madrid blast that partially destroyed building

The cause of the incident on Toledo street, at a spot near a school and a senior care home, is still unknown but the city’s mayor said the evidence pointed to a gas explosion

Members of the public leave the site of the explosion in Madrid today.
Members of the public leave the site of the explosion in Madrid today.INMA FLORES
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DVD 1036 Madrid 20/1/2021

Explosion edificio calle Toledo 98

Foto: Inma Flores
Madrid blast claims fourth victim

At least three people are dead, eight have sustained injuries and one more remains unaccounted for after there was a powerful explosion at around 3pm on Wednesday inside a building in Madrid, according to a statement made by central government delegate José Manuel Franco.

The blast destroyed the top four floors of the structure, located on Toledo street in the city center. Although the cause of the explosion is yet to be confirmed, Mayor José Luis Martínez-Almeida was at the scene and said the circumstances pointed to a gas explosion. Police sources said the incident took place when technicians were checking the conditions of the building’s gas installation.

20/01/2021 Aspecto de un inmueble momentos posteriores a una fuerte explosión registrada la calle Toledo que ha hundido varias plantas del edificio, en Madrid, (España), a 20 de enero de 2021. La explosión se ha producido minutos antes de las tres de la tarde y como consecuencia hay un edificio que está ardiendo, numerosos vehículos afectados y se está evacuando a ancianos por parte de la Policía Municipal y Nacional.
Eduardo Parra - Europa Press
The Madrid blast in pictures

“It is still premature, but it appears that there was a technician working on the boiler, although we don’t know what kind of work he was carrying out,” said Martínez-Almeida. “We also know that one of the injured is in very serious condition, and that another one is a priest. We have three deaths to mourn, one of them an 85-year-old man. It is truly a miracle that this gas explosion did not cause more [deaths].”

The injured include a 26-year-old man who was seriously hurt and has been taken to La Paz hospital for treatment. Two other men have been hospitalized for minor injuries, and six other people were treated on the spot.

Victims on stretchers following the blast.
Victims on stretchers following the blast. David Fernández (EFE)

“Firefighters are going to check for any damage to the wall between the affected building and the senior care home. Some debris has also fallen into the school yard,” said the mayor.

Almeida added that the building “is on fire on the inside, but it is not considered prudent at this moment for the firefighters to go in there. If they put out the fire, an accumulation of gas could form that could very severely affect the building’s stability.” The mayor said authorities might consider a controlled explosion later on.

Video footage of the aftermath of the explosion in Madrid today.

The building, located at number 98 on Toledo street, in the district of La Latina, was originally said to be a senior care home but has now been reported to be the parish center of the Church of Virgen de la Paloma. It contains office space, a shelter run by the charity group Cáritas, a meeting room, a living room and three housing units for priests.

Emergency teams assisting the injured on Toledo street.
Emergency teams assisting the injured on Toledo street. INMA FLORES (EL PAIS)

The explosion took place near a school, the Colegio La Salle-La Paloma, where at least one student sustained minor injuries, according to early reports. The site is also located near a senior residence, Los Nogales, where a spokesperson said that nobody had been injured. “They are evacuating all the residents to Hotel Ganivet which is right across the street,” said this source. At the time of the explosion there were 56 residents inside the care home.

A woman who had just gotten off a bus at the time of the blast, between 50 to 100 meters from the site, said she saw “a body lying on the ground.” The witness, a teacher who lives nearby on Plaza Cascorro, was shaking as she went home to start online lessons with her students.

The emergency services aiding people injured in today's blast in Madrid.
The emergency services aiding people injured in today's blast in Madrid.Jaime Villanueva

“I live right across the street. I was cooking in the kitchen when I heard a tremendously loud sound. I looked out towards the living room window and saw the balcony implode into the living room,” said Rodrigo Verano, 37, still in shock and amazed to be alive. Rubble and glass shards were lying all over the table where he had been working only moments earlier.

With reporting by Luis de Vega and Victoria Torres.

English version by Susana Urra.

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