Nineteen people were killed, including nine children, and dozens of others were injured from an apartment building fire in The Bronx borough of New York City on Sunday, according to city officials and local media.
New York City Mayor Eric Adams confirmed that 19 people had died from the blaze that broke out around 11am local time in a 19-floor apartment building.
“We’ve lost 19 of our neighbors today. It’s a tragedy beyond measure. Join me in praying for those we lost, especially the 9 innocent young lives that were cut short,” Adams wrote on Twitter.
Earlier on Sunday, officials said that 32 people had been hospitalised with life-threatening injuries and some 60 people were injured in total.
“Right now we have 19 people confirmed dead and we have several more that are in critical condition,” Adams said in an interview with CNN.
Some 200 firefighters helped put out the blaze. Its cause was not immediately known, the city’s fire department commissioner Daniel Nigro told reporters at a Sunday news briefing.
“Members found victims on every floor in stairwells and were taking them out in cardiac and respiratory arrest,” he said.
Firefighters “found victims on every floor and were taking them out in cardiac and respiratory arrest,” he said. “That is unprecedented in our city.”
The fire originated in a duplex apartment spanning the second and third floors. Firefighters found the door to the apartment open, which apparently allowed the fire to accelerate and spread smoke upward quickly, said Nigro.
Neighbours spoke of seeing residents desperately waving from floors, apparently trapped and unable to escape.
“It was chaos,” George King, who lives directly adjacent the building.
“I’ve been here 15 years and it’s the first time I’ve seen something like this.
“I saw the smoke, a lot of people were panicking. You could see that no one wanted to jump from the building. People were waving from the windows,” he added.
The cause of the fire was not immediately clear.
The injured were taken to five hospitals; many suffered from cardiac and respiratory arrest.
The blaze comes just four days after a fire in Philadelphia killed 12 people, including eight children, in a three-story public housing building.