By MICHAEL R. SISAK, JENNIFER PELTZ and DAVID PORTER
NEW YORK (AP) – At least 19 people, including nine children, died in a fire Sunday in a Bronx apartment building in one of the worst fires in New York City in decades, officials said.
Mayor Eric Adams called the fire “terrible.”
“This is going to be one of the worst fires we have witnessed in modern times,” he said.
The death toll was confirmed by Stefan Ringel, a senior adviser to Adams. An official in the city, who was not authorized to speak in public, confirmed the number of dead children.
More than five dozen people were injured and 13 people were still in critical condition at the hospital, Ringel said. The majority of the victims suffered from severe smoke inhalation, FDNY Commissioner Daniel Nigro said at a press conference earlier that afternoon.
Firefighters “found victims on each floor and took them out for cardiac and respiratory arrest,” he said at an afternoon briefing. “It’s unprecedented in our city. We expect there will be many killed.”
According to FDNY, about 200 firefighters responded to the scene Sunday at the Twin Park Apartments, a 19-story building on East 181st Street.
News photographers at the scene captured images of firefighters entering the upper floors of the burning building on a ladder, several limp children were given oxygen after being carried from the building and evacuated with their faces covered in soot.
Nigro compared the severity of the fire to the fire at Happy Land Social Club, which killed 87 people in 1990 when a man set fire to the building after arguing with his ex-girlfriend and being thrown out of the club.
According to Nigro, Sunday’s fire broke out in a duplex apartment spanning the second and third floors. Firefighters found the door to the apartment open, he said, apparently allowing the fire to accelerate and spread smoke upward quickly.
The fire is not believed to have occurred suspiciously, but the cause is under investigation.
A resident of the building, Cristal Diaz, 27, told the New York Post she was drinking coffee in her living room when she smelled the smoke.
“We started putting water on towels and the bottom of the door. Everything was crazy,” she said. “We did not know what to do. We looked out the windows and saw all the dead bodies they took with the blankets.”
Sunday’s fire broke out a few days after a Philadelphia house fire killed 12 people – including eight children – was the deadliest fire in a U.S. apartment building since 2017, when 13 people died in an apartment in the Bronx neighborhood of New York City, according to data from The National Fire Brigade Association. The fire started after a 3-year-old boy was playing with stoves.
The deadliest fire before that was in 1989, when a fire in an apartment in Tennessee killed 16 people.
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