wner Andrea holds Coco the cat, a survivor of the 22 February Valencia apartment block fire, after firefighters found it in the burned building eight days later, on 1 March 2024.; Credit: Valencia Local Police /Handout via REUTERS

VALENCIA, Spain (Reuters) - On Friday 1 March 2024, firefighters in the Spanish city of Valencia could hardly believe their eyes when they found a live cat huddled within the charred remains of an apartment block ravaged by a huge fire eight days ago.

Named Coco, the feline was reunited with tearful owner Andrea Rubio - who had given up all hope that her beloved pet had survived the blaze, which claimed the lives of 10 people and dozens of pets. "My poor little thing!," Rubio, 32, exclaimed as she embraced Coco in a video released by local police.

The local fire department said on social platform X it had delivered Coco to his owners "with great satisfaction" alongside a picture of the cat's tail hanging out of the hydrant niche. "We found him through pure luck," a firefighter can be heard saying in the same video.

Rubio's partner, Javier Fernandez, told Reuters that Coco's rescuers stumbled across him on the 13th floor, two stories above their apartment in the part of the building that suffered little damage. Coco appeared to have taken refuge inside a fire hydrant niche.

The couple immediately took Coco to a veterinary clinic for a complete check-up and he appeared to be in good health although he smelled heavily of smoke, Fernandez said.

He remained under 24-hour observation to determine if and to what extent he had suffered dehydration.

The deadly fire, which spread rapidly as the flames where fanned by strong winds, broke out on the evening of 22 February in the affluent El Campanar district.

Over 150 survivors, including Rubio and Fernandez, are temporarily living in empty social housing as they await a more permanent solution.

"It's a new home for him, so he'll be a bit lost at first, but the sooner he gets used to it the better Coco is going to feel," Fernandez said.