Nineteen people, including nine children, were killed Sunday in an apartment fire in New York’s Bronx borough, in one of the city’s worst fire disasters in 30 years.
Eric Adams, the new mayor still in his first week in the job, said: “The numbers are horrific. This is a horrifying, painful moment for the city of New York. The impact of this fire will really add a level of pain and bring despair to our city.”
Adams added: “This is going to be one of the worst fires we’ve seen in modern times.”
Stefan Ringel, a senior advisor to Adams, confirmed the death toll. An official who was not authorized to speak publicly confirmed the number of dead children.
More than 200 New York Fire Department (FDNY) officers fought the blaze, which occurred in a 120-unit, 19-story building on East 181st Street in the Bronx known as Twin Parks.
According to city fire commissioner Dan Nigro, the fire started shortly before 11 a.m. in a duplex on the second and third floors, spewing heavy smoke throughout the building. Nigro indicated that the smoke spread so quickly because the apartment door was open.
Nigro said firefighters “found victims on every floor in stairwells and brought them out in respiratory and cardiac arrest. That is unprecedented in our city. We expect that there will be many fatalities.”
Nearly all victims had smoke inhalation, no burns.
“This fire took its toll on our city,” Nigro said.
More than 63 people are said to have been injured, 32 of them in life-threatening conditions. Residents were treated at five city hospitals.
News photographers captured images of firefighters entering the upper floors of the burning building on a ladder, children being given oxygen after being carried from the building and evacuees with faces covered in soot.
Nigro compared the severity of the fire to the fire at the social club Happy Land, in which 87 people died in 1990 when a man set fire to the building after he got into an argument with his ex-girlfriend and was thrown out.
The fire is believed to have originated, but the cause is under investigation.
One resident, Cristal Diaz, 27, told the New York Post that she was drinking coffee in her living room when she smelled smoke.
“We started pouring water on towels and the bottom of the door. Everything was crazy,” she said. “We didn’t know what to do. We looked out the windows and saw all the corpses they took with the blankets.”
The fire comes just days after a house fire in Philadelphia killed 12 people, including eight children.
According to the National Fire Protection Association, it was the deadliest fire in a residential apartment building in the US since 2017, killing 13 people in an apartment building in the Bronx. The fire started after a three-year-old boy played with stove burners.