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Couple saved from Valencia tower block inferno say they ‘refused to die’

Valencia fire  (AP)
Valencia fire (AP)

The final couple saved from a tower block inferno in Valencia say “they refused to die” as firefighters rescued them from the burning building.

Sara Jorge, 26, and her boyfriend Anmar Deruyuck from Belgium were rescued from the 14-storey block on Rafael Alberti Poeta Street which set ablaze at 5.30pm on Thursday.

The blaze, fanned by strong winds, broke out on Thursday evening in the affluent El Campanar district.

The fire which consumed the tower block has claimed 10 victims so far and on Saturday the city mourned the victims.

Amongst the escapees are Ms Jorge and Mr Deruyuck who reportedly were renting a flat in the complex, dramatic footage showed the pair pacing up and down the balcony screaming for help, according to the paper.

Debris flew out at firefighters who worked to put out the blaze (AP)
Debris flew out at firefighters who worked to put out the blaze (AP)

Ms Jorge told the BBC: “Once we jumped from our flat to a balcony and could see the flames all around us, that was the moment we thought we were going to die there.

“But I said to my boyfriend: ‘I refuse to die.’ The conditions around us were telling us it would happen- but I just knew it wasn’t my time.”

Speaking of their extraordinary escape, Ms Jorge said the couple scrambled onto the balcony where they remained for two and a half hours trying to make themselves visible to the rescuers, she told the paper.

The 26-year-old said they went into survival mode as firefighters put out the engulfing flames. The couple said they refused to hug and instead exchanged a little kiss - to signal they were not giving up.

Police had revised the number of dead to nine from 10 on Friday in the process of identifying the bodies in the building, but confirmed a 10th fatal victim had been found on Saturday.

Outside the charred building, a single white flower was taped to a utility pole as Valencians gathered at the scene to pay their respects.

Pilar Zamora, 53, who travelled across town with her husband, said she was feeling "a lot of pain and anger".

"Seeing (on TV) people on the balcony, shouting for help and not being able to do anything...those were very difficult moments," Zamora said, holding back tears.

Firefighters remove a charred body inside a burned block building in Valencia, Spain, Friday, Feb. 23, 2024 (Copyright 2024 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)
Firefighters remove a charred body inside a burned block building in Valencia, Spain, Friday, Feb. 23, 2024 (Copyright 2024 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

Her husband, Vicente Palaes, 55, said he had no words to describe how he felt when he approached the building: "When I saw it, I started to cry."

Around 100 survivors are being housed at a local hotel as they wait for a more permanent solution.

At midday on Saturday - the second of three official days of mourning decreed after the fire - hundreds of people gathered outside Valencia's City Hall for a moment of silence as flags flew at half-mast.

At the city's San Miguel y San Sebastian church, Catholic priest Juan Andres Talens said people had been praying for those affected.

"We are mourning," Talens said as a mass took place inside the historic church.

Emergency services said the blaze began on the fourth floor of one of the towers. A local magistrate has opened an investigation into the blaze.

The building, comprising two towers, was completed in 2008, officials said. It had 138 apartments, newspaper El Pais reported.

A lack of firewalls and the use of polyurethane, a plastic material, on the facade of the building would have contributed to the rapid spread of the blaze, Esther Puchades, a representative of insurance inspection agency APCAS, told RTVE, in comments evoking memories of the deadly Grenfell Tower fire in London in 2017.

The association for the polyurethane industry said in a statement no polyurethane was used in the building's cladding.

Locals have urged the authorities to ensure other buildings in the city are not at risk.

"If any building has the same cladding, now is the time to investigate and remove it," Zamora said.

The couple has started a GoFundMe page for the victims of the fire who lost their family members, possessions and homes within a matter of hours.