19 dead, including children, in New York's deadliest apartment fire
At least 19 people, including nine children, have been killed in what is being called the deadliest apartment fire in New York City, United States in the last three decades. The fire injured at least 63 people and 13 are still in critical condition in hospitals, officials said. A majority of victims suffered severe smoke inhalation, fire department Commissioner Daniel Nigro said.
What caused the fire?
The fire was caused by a portable electric heater, according to officials. "The marshals have determined through physical evidence and through firsthand accounts by the residents that this fire started in a bedroom in a portable electric heater," Nigro said. Flames quickly engulfed much of the structure, Nigro said, describing the dense smoke as "unprecedented."
200 firefighters responded to blaze
The fire broke out at 11:00 am on Sunday on the second and third floors of a 19-story building. Reportedly, 200 firefighters responded to the blaze. Nigro said firefighters found victims on every floor, and many of them suffered respiratory and cardiac arrest Some people "could not escape because of the volume of smoke," Nigro added. The injured were reportedly taken to five hospitals.
Deadliest fire in 3 decades: Nigro
Nigro said the fire was so "heavy" that the smoke "extended the entire height of the building." "The last time we had a loss of life that may be this horrific was a fire which was over 30 years ago," he added.
Praying for those we lost: Mayor
Meanwhile, Mayor Eric Adams said the fire is going to be "one of the worst fires in our history." "Join me in praying for those we lost, especially the nine innocent young lives that were cut short," he added. Adams also praised the firefighters for continuing to make rescues even after their oxygen tanks had run out.
Building's residents have been Muslims: Mayor
The Bronx, where the building is located, is a working-class neighborhood with a large immigrant population. Adams said "many" of the building's residents had been Muslims who moved to New York from the Gambia.
'It was chaos,' says eyewitness
George King, who lives in the adjacent building, describes the incident as "chaos." "I've been here 15 years, and it's the first time I've seen something like this," he told Agence France-Presse. "I saw the smoke, a lot of people were panicking. You could see that no one wanted to jump from the building. People were waving from the windows," he added.
Saw hallway filling with black smoke: Eyewitness
Building resident Sandra Clayton said she ran for her life when she saw the hallway filling with black smoke and heard people screaming, "Get out! Get out!" Another resident, Clayton (61), said she scrabbled her way down a staircase as the smoke was so thick and black that she couldn't see. "I just ran down the steps...but people were falling all over me, screaming."
Highest death toll since Happy Land fire
The death toll was the highest for a fire in the city since the Happy Land fire in 1990. The Happy Land fire was caused by arson and had killed 87 people. Sunday's fire was also the deadliest apartment fire since 2017, where 13 people died in an apartment building. Notably, the 2017 fire had also taken place in the Bronx.