Tuesday, February 22, 2005

YOU WANTED more indications that there was som foul play involved in the Madrid office tower fire, didn't you? (see previous posts here and here). Well, there's more information yet: a third video showing lights turned on (again, click in "ver video" in this page), and the locks in one door in the underground area and another in the second floor were broken into pieces. And the most intriguing news item today: a confirmation by police forensic experts (that would be sort of Spain's CSI) that the guys inside were carrying radio transmitters:
Two persons, not firefighters, carrying radio transmitters were inside the Windsor building in Madrid while it was on fire, said police sources to the Telemadrid network. Meanwhile, the Tele 5 network broadcast another home video, filmed at 3:50 AM on Saturday, February 12, in which three lights can be seen on one of the tower's stories only a few meters from the flames which at that moment were causing the collapse of the façade. At the same time, the unidentified individuals were filmed inside the building. The fire department insists that a person could not tolerate temperatures of over 300º C, which the fire would have produced, without a special suit. However, the real temperature inside the tower at the moment the videos were recorded is uncertain, since the maintenance story, with its heavy concrete, was just above the building's 16th floor and would have served as insulation against the heat.
My hunch is that there are two alternative explanations for all this: 1/ the fire was started by arsonists, for who knows what reasons, and they stayed in the building until they were sure that the work was sufficiently done. Could be organized crime, or someone trying to burn some damning evidence (remember the building were the offices of Spain's no.1 auditing firm and no.1's law firm); it could be terrorists, though I guess they would've claimed it publicly already. 2/ some rogue elements among the firefighters trying to illicitly get some valuables from upscale offices hoping that no one would notice since the whole thing was going to burn anyway. This would be consistent with the use of radio transmitters, and with the fact that only someone trained and used to be around blazing fires is likely have the guts to be with fire so close over their heads. Just watch the videos and you'll see what I mean.

What still amazes me is that, several hours after the fire started, and even after firefighters had been trying to extinguish the fire with lots of water, and even after they left because they realized they couldn't do anything... still electricity wasn't cut off? I'd expect this to be the first thing to do in such a situation. Oh, and one more thing: the owners of the building said that the fire couldn't possibly be a shortcircuit because electricity, heating / air conditioning is routinely cut off during the weekends, and the fire was on a Saturday. I never bought this, because anyone who has some knowledge of big multinationals and big law firms knows that it's very common to work at least some time during weekends, and obviously you need some juice for the computers, photocopiers, whatever; moreover, anyone would freeze there with no heating in the middle of February. Well, now we know the owners are not telling the truth.


UPDATE. Just heard on the radio that experts have concluded that the door locks were smashed by firefighters when trying to extinguish the blaze. Makes sense. Other intriguing points still stand, though. Which means the story is still, in drudge-speak, developing...

UPDATE II. On it's evening news, Tele 5 is reporting that the judge has ordered the interruption of the building's demolition; a complex system with giant cranes and robots were already in place, but they'll have to wait until the investigation is completed.