Candle blaze kills woman, prompts anger over Spanish energy prices

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A pensioner’s death in Reus, Spain has prompted a furious debate over rising energy prices, after a candle fire which killed her was blamed on her limited means to light her home.

On Monday, an 81-year-old Tarragona woman died from the effects of smoke inhalation after candles set fire to a mattress in her home.

Footage from Spanish broadcaster RTVE reveals the damage caused by the devastating inferno, which had spread to parts of the living room and kitchen.

Local media report that the victim, identified only as Rosa, had been forced to use candles as her sole source of light in the weeks leading up to her death because her electricity had been disconnected when she could not afford to pay the bills.

Tweet:“A life working hard, saving, building a country to die frost of cold to dark”

Consumer rights group Facua has criticized energy company Natural Gas Fenosa over reports it failed to take the appropriate steps and inform the local council of the power outage.

Tweet: “FACUA denounces Natural gas for not reporting to the City Council that cut the light to the elderly woman who died in Reus”

Facua also said that the accident followed a 25 percent increase in Spanish electricity prices over the past six months. In a statement, it said “energy poverty kills” and called for an inspection scheme to assess whether companies are illegally turning off electricity without warning.

The head of Catalonia’s government, Carles Puigdemont, and Reus City Mayor Carles Pellicer have placed the responsibility squarely at the company’s door. Both accuse the business, which has more than 23 million customers across Spain and Latin America, of turning off the fire victim’s electricity without informing the relevant authorities, report El País.

Gas Natural Fenosa has rejected this, however, instead pointing the finger at Reus City Council for an alleged oversight which left the elderly lady’s name off a special council list of potentially vulnerable customers, report the Catalan News Agency.

Under Catalan law 24/2015, which acknowledges an alarming growth of “energy poverty” from 2008 to 2015 in the region, it is illegal for utility companies to withdraw water, gas, or electricity from households without first requesting a follow-up inspection and means test.

Article 6 of the law states: “[W]hen the supplier has to make a power outage they must request a report from the municipal social services to determine whether the individual or the family is in a risk situation”.