At least 13 people have died in a fire that engulfed three nightclubs in the south-eastern Spanish city of Murcia.

The blaze broke out in the Fonda Milagros nightclub, known as La Fonda – early on Sunday morning.

It then spread to neighbouring clubs as patrons rushed to escape the packed dancefloors, police said.

Local media reported that family members celebrating a birthday were among the dead.

One of the birthday party attendees – who was at the club with his cousins and aunt – said he returned home during the chaos, only to be told that one of his cousins had not left, La Verdad de Murcia newspaper reported.

It is not clear if the cousin was among those confirmed dead.

Police have confirmed that all of those who died were at La Fonda, but added 14 people were still unaccounted for. They warned the number of deaths would probably rise.

The club is located in the Atalayas area in Murcia, and the fire is believed to have started at around 06:00 (04:00 GMT).

Nearly 15 hours on, it is still not clear what caused it. But Murcia’s Mayor Jose Ballesta told reporters earlier in the day that the fire had broken out on the first floor of the club.

Diego Seral, of the national police, said the roof of La Fonda had collapsed, which was making it challenging to locate victims and work out what had happened.

Map of the area

A 28-year-old woman sent a voice note to her mother when the fire had started, according to the La Verdad de Murcia newspaper, saying, “Mummy, I love you; we’re going to die.”

She had gone out with her partner and some friends from the nearby town of Caravaca de la Cruz. It is not clear if she survived.

“They went because in Caravaca there are no nightclubs,” the woman’s father, named Jairo, told the paper. “It was the second time she had been.”

Four people are being treated in the hospital for smoke inhalation, and a local sports venue is being used to provide counselling for those affected.

“We are devastated,” Murcia Mayor Jose Ballesta said. He has decreed three days of mourning in Murcia.

This is believed to be the country’s worst nightclub fire in more than 30 years. In 1990, 43 people were killed in a blaze in a venue in Zaragoza.

Scene after a fire at a nightclub in the Atalayas area in Murcia
The fire spread from Fonda Milagros to the next door Teatre club