By ED MCCULLOUGH
Associated Press Writer
MADRID, Spain (AP) - Spanish authorities have ordered a section
of Madrid's business district closed Monday following an intense fire
that heavily damaged one of the city's tallest skyscapers, leaving it
still standing but unstable.
The fire, which left seven people slightly injured, broke out in the
32-story Windsor building on Saturday at about 11:20 p.m. Thick smoke
and searing temperatures prevented firefighters from entering the
building and getting the fire under control until late Sunday.
The office tower was heavily damaged but did not collapse, as had
been feared. However, officials said it was unstable and closed the
area around the building.
"What worries us now is its structural state because of the high
temperatures it was subjected to," Merardo Tudelo, director of the
Madrid Municipal Firefighters, told reporters.
Madrid Mayor Alberto Ruiz-Gallardon said "the situation is still critical."
Emergency officials planned to keep the area in the Spanish
capital's banking and business district cordoned off at least through
Monday _ a closure that would affect dozens of businesses and several
The department store El Corte Ingles, located alongside the wrecked
skyscraper, confirmed it won't open Monday and told its 2,000 employees
to stay home.
Cars will be routed to neighboring streets, subway lines under or
near the damaged Windsor Building will remain shut down, and adjacent
office towers will remain closed by order of the mayor.
"This is the biggest fire ... this city has ever had," Gallardon
told reporters outside the blackened hulk of twisted wreckage at midday.
It was not immediately clear what caused the fire, but the building
was almost empty when the first alarm went off. Only one of the seven
firefighters who suffered smoke inhalation remained hospitalized
Sunday, Gallardon said.
By Sunday evening, flames were no longer visible, though gray smoke
and ash stoked by gusts of wind continued to pour from the blackened
shell of the building.
Hours earlier, several top floors collapsed onto lower ones.
Firefighter official Fernando Munilla expressed concern that the entire
building _ which at about 350 feet high is among the 10 tallest in
Madrid _ could collapse.
"If the partial collapses keep happening, it would be lying to say
it's impossible that the whole building couldn't fall down," he said.
Construction of the shiny gold Windsor Building began in 1973 and
was completed in 1979. It became a landmark structure in Madrid's
business district. The building was surrounded with scaffolding due to
recent repairs, and a huge crane remained perched on its roof.
Associated Press writer Mar Roman contributed to this report.
(Copyright 2005 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This
material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)