Explosion and fire at leisure centre leaves eight dead and 38 injured
A fire at a leisure centre in Vila Nova da Rainha, Tondela, on Saturday night, killed at least eight people and has left 38 injured - 22 seriously so.
The source of the fire may have been a salamander-type of heating unit, according to José António Jesus, the Mayor of Tondela, with witnesses saying that the flames started “after an explosion in the heating system.”
Most agree that the fire started from a ‘salamander’ on the top floor of the association building and rapidly spread across the false ceiling.
Around 70 locals were at the leisure centre when the explosion happened. Many elderly people were playing in a cards competition on the first floor, the ground floor was filled with football fans watching the Benfica vs Sporting de Braga match.
On Sunday morning, the Ministry of Health updated the number of injured to 38 with 29 hospitalised with seven very seriously injured.
The President of the Republic visited the site on Sunday morning, accompanied by the Minister of Internal Administration, Eduardo Cabrita. The prime minister has already spoken with the mayor of Tondela about the fire.
The wounded are being treated at the hospitals of Viseu, Tondela and Coimbra with the most serious burns cases taken to hospitals in Lisbon and Oporto.
The explosion and fire caused a state of panic in which many people were crushed, many were burned and others now are suffering from smoke inhalation.
The alarm was raised at 20:51 and the fire was extinguished by 21:50 due to 192 firefighters, 74 vehicles and four helicopters rushing to the scene.
Those trying to flee the flames had difficulty leaving the building as the exit was via a narrow staircase leading to a door that may have been locked or unable to be opened due to the number of people piling up in front of it.
On Sunday, the government published its condolences, “The Government presents the most heartfelt condolences to the relatives and friends of the victims of Saturday’s accident in Vila Nova da Rainha,” reads a note published on the executive’s website.
Prime Minister, António Costa, “has been in constant contact with the mayor of Tondela” and … the Government is monitoring the consequences of the fire through the services of the Ministries of Internal Administration, Health and Labour, Solidarity and Social Security.”
“Psychological support teams have also been made available,” added the PM.
The main road was cut off to traffic for two kilometres around the building after the blast occurred and emergency services dealt with the tragedy.