Nineteen people including nine children have been killed in New York City’s mayor Eric Adams described as one of the worst fires in the city’s history.
Others are reported to be in a critical condition following the fire in a 19-storey block of flats in the Bronx which is understood to have been started by a malfunctioning portable electric heater.
In all 63 people were injured, mainly from smoke inhalation even though the fire itself appeared to have been largely contained in the apartment where it broke out.
At least 200 firefighters rushed to the scene which took place a week after 12 people, including eight children died in a house fire in Philadelphia.
“The fire consumed that apartment that is on two floors and part of the hallway,” said Daniel Nigro, the New York City fire commissioner.
“Unfortunately, when the residents left the door was left open, it did not close by itself. The smoke spread throughout the building.
“Thus, the tremendous loss of life and other people fighting for their lives right now in hospitals all over the Bronx.”
Emergency crews carry a victim away from the scene. Residents described seeing bodies carried out of the block, in what New York's mayor described as one of the city's worst fires
Credit: LLOYD MITCHELL
Firefighters found victims on every floor of the building; Mr Nigro added as he described the fire as “unprecedented” in the city.
“The last time we had a loss of life that may be this horrific was at Happy Land Fire over 30 years ago here in the Bronx.”
‘I wondered if I would see my son again’
Residents in the building described their desperate attempts to escape.
Wesley Patterson, 28, was in his third floor flat, where he has lived for 20 years, when the fire started.
He was in the bathroom when his girlfriend, who had seen flames billowing out from another apartment, hammered on the door.
63 people were injured, mainly from smoke inhalation, as the fire tore through the block
Within minutes the flat filled with smoke, he told the New York Times. He burned his hands as he tried opening the window.
“I was yelling, ‘Please help me! Please come get us!” he said, adding that it was the “most critical situation I’ve ever been in my life.”
“There were a lot of thoughts just popping up in my mind,” he said.
“I was thinking about my son, and I was wondering if I was ever going to see him again.”
‘We saw all the dead bodies in the blankets’
On the 15th floor Cristal Diaz, 27, grabbed her cousins, aunt, and dog Fluffy, when she realised the block was on fire.
“I was drinking coffee in the living room, and I started smelling smoke,” she told the New York Post.
“We started putting water on towels and the bottom of the door. Everything was crazy.
“We didn’t know what to do. We looked out the windows and saw all the dead bodies they were taking with the blankets.”
Dozens of people were injured from smoke inhalation
Credit: GETTY IMAGES
At least 200 firefighters rushed to the scene at East 181st St in the Bronx
Credit: Yuki Iwamura
According to city records the 120-unit building in the Bronx was built in 1972.
The building, Twin Parks North West, is a block for low-income New Yorkers, many of whom receive rent subsidies.
It is owned by the Camber Property Group, a developer who specialises in providing affordable housing mainly in the Bronx, the borough and north and east of Manhattan.
Mayor: This is one of the worst fires in our history
Rick Gropper, the company’s co-founder was a member of Mayor Adams’ transition team with responsibility for housing.
Many of those in the block were immigrants, including several families from Gambia.
New York City Mayor Eric Adams listens during a news conference outside an apartment building where a deadly fire occurred in the Bronx
Credit: Yuki Iwamura/AP
Firefighters worked to save residents of the burning block
Mayor Adams promised people who came forward for help would not be reported to immigration enforcement.
He described the fire as an “horrific, horrific painful moment for the City of New York”.
He added: “The impact of this fire is going to really bring a level of pain and despair in this city. This is truly a tragedy not only for the Bronx. this is going to be one of worst fires in our history.
“This is really a horrific day for us.”
Kathy Hochul, the governor of New York, added: “We are a city in shock”.
She described comforting families in the block. “I went table to table, helping children make the ramen noodles and eat their pizza and let them know one thing: The mayor and I are united is we will not forget you we will not abandon you. We are here for you.”