Nineteen people, including nine children, wer killed in an apartment fire in the Bronx borough of New York City on Sunday. Eric Adams, the new mayor, called the fire’s toll “horrific”.
“This is going to be one of the worst fires that we have witnessed during modern times,” he said.
Stefan Ringel, a senior adviser to Adams, confirmed the death toll. An official not authorized to speak publicly confirmed the number of children dead.
More than five dozen people were injured and 13 were still in critical condition in the hospital, Ringel said.
Most victims suffered severe smoke inhalation, FDNY commissioner Daniel Nigro said at a press conference.
According to the FDNY, approximately 200 firefighters responded to the scene at the Twin Park apartments, a 19-story building on East 181st Street.
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.
Firefighters “found victims on every floor and were taking them out in cardiac and respiratory arrest”, Nigro said. “That is unprecedented in our city. We expect there to be numerous fatalities.”
Nigro compared the severity of the fire to the Happy Land social club fire, which killed 87 in 1990 when man set fire to the building after getting into an argument with his former girlfriend and being thrown out.
Nigro said the fire on Sunday originated in a duplex apartment spanning the second and third floors. Firefighters found the door to the apartment open, he said, which apparently allowed the fire to accelerate and spread smoke upward quickly.
The fire was not believed to be suspicious in origin but the cause was under investigation.
A resident, Cristal Diaz, 27, told the New York Post she was drinking coffee in her living room when she smelled smoke.
“We started putting 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 dead bodies they were taking with the blankets.”
The fire comes just days after a house fire in Philadelphia left 12 people dead, including eight children.
That was the deadliest fire at a US residential apartment building since 2017, when 13 people died in an apartment building in the Bronx, according to the National Fire Protection Association. That fire started after a three-year-old boy played with stove burners.