Nineteen people were killed, including nine children, and dozens were injured Sunday in a fire started by a malfunctioning space heater that covered a 19-story building in New York’s neighborhood with smoke. Bronx, reported municipal authorities.
New York Mayor Eric Adams, who took office just over a week ago, confirmed that 19 people were killed in the fire that broke out around 11 a.m. in the imposing building. Twin Parks North West, which offered affordable housing.
Early on Sunday, authorities said 32 people were hospitalized with life-threatening injuries and a total of 60 people were injured.
“It is an immeasurable tragedy,” Adams wrote on Twitter. “Join me in praying for those we lost, especially the 9 young innocent lives that were cut short.”
At a news conference Sunday afternoon, Adams said “it looks like this stemmed from a heater.”
The fire started in an apartment that spanned the second and third floors of the building and reached the lobby, according to authorities.
However, the smoke spread to all floors of the building, probably because the apartment door was left open, and the victims suffered smoke inhalation, the city’s fire department commissioner, Daniel Nigro, told reporters in a Press conference.
“The members found victims on every floor, on the stairs, and they were taking them out in cardiac and respiratory arrest,” he said.
Firefighters had determined, through physical evidence and residents’ accounts, that the fire started in a portable electric heater in the apartment’s bedroom, Nigro said.
He added that the heat was on in the apartment building and that the space heater was supplementing that heat.
The catastrophe is likely to raise questions about safety standards in the city’s low-income housing.
It is the second major fire in a residential complex in the United States this week, after twelve people, including eight children, were killed Wednesday when flames tore through a public housing apartment building in Philadelphia.
US Representative Ritchie Torres, a Democrat whose district includes the New York building, told MSNBC that affordable housing complexes like the one in the Bronx pose a risk to the safety of residents. “When we allow our affordable developments to be plagued by decades of divestment, we are putting lives at risk,” he said.
Adams said many of the residents came from the West African country of the Gambia.
Caught up in the smoke
The building did not have exterior fire escapes, and residents had to evacuate via interior stairs, Nigro said. “I think some of them were unable to escape due to the volume of smoke,” he said.
About 200 firefighters helped put out the flames, and some ran out of oxygen in their tanks but went ahead to rescue people from the building, Adams said.
“I want to thank you for risking your lives to save lives,” Adams said.
A Reuters photographer at the scene Sunday saw emergency crews performing CPR on at least eight people in front of the building.
Nigro said he believed there were 120 apartments in the building. “There are a large number of people who need a place to stay,” he said.
An official with the New York City emergency administration said that all people needing accommodation will be checked in and placed in hotels for a “prolonged period” until it is safe to return to the building.