Some residents “couldn’t escape because of the smoke,” said Nigro. Firefighters found “victims on every floor and brought them out with cardiac and respiratory arrest,” he said, calling it “unprecedented”.
Stefan Ringel, a senior advisor to Mayor Eric Adams, said the children killed were 16 years or younger. Many of the building’s residents were originally from the West African state of Gambia, Adams said, and there was a large Muslim community.
Thirteen people remained in critical condition in the hospital, Ringel said. In total, more than five dozen people were injured. Most of the victims suffered severe smoke inhalation, said Nigro. Adams called the toll “awful”.
“We lost 19 of our neighbors today. It is a tragedy beyond measure. Pray with me for those we have lost, especially the 9 innocent young lives that have been abandoned, ”tweeted Adams, who was sworn in on January 1st.
About 200 firefighters responded to the building on East 181st Street at around 11 a.m. Sunday.
News photographers took pictures of firefighters entering the upper floors of the burning building on a ladder, several limp children after they were carried out, and evacuees with soot-smeared faces.
Building resident Luis Rosa said he was woken by a fire alarm on Sunday but initially turned it down because he thought it was one of the building’s periodic false alarms.
But when a notification popped up on his phone, he and his mother began to worry. At this point, smoke began to rise in his apartment on the 13th floor and he heard sirens in the distance.
He opened the front door, but the smoke had grown too thick to escape, he said.
“When I opened the door, I couldn’t even see that far down the hall,” Rosa told the Associated Press. “So I said, OK, we can’t run down the stairs because if we run down the stairs we’ll end up choking.”
“We could only wait,” he says.
Another resident, Vernessa Cunningham, said she raced home from church after receiving a warning on her cell phone that the building was on fire.
“I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. I was shocked, ”said Cunningham, 60, of a nearby school where some residents were gathering. “I could see my apartment. The windows were all broken. And I could see flames from the back of the building. “
The 120-unit building in the Twin Parks North West Complex was constructed in 1973 as part of a project to build modern, affordable housing in the Bronx.
The drab brown building towers over an intersection of smaller, aging brick buildings overlooking Webster Avenue, one of the main thoroughfares in the Bronx.
On Sunday afternoon, all that was visible of the unit in which the fire broke out was a gaping black hole in which the windows had been blown. Apartments up to the 12th floor also had broken windows. The intersection was littered with police and fire engines, and onlookers were still taking cellphone photos of the building after dark.
“There is no guarantee that there will be a working fire alarm in every home or common area,” US MP Ritchie Torres, a Democrat who represents the region, told AP. “Most of these buildings don’t have sprinklers. And so the Bronx housing stock is much more vulnerable to devastating fires than most of the city’s housing stock. “
Nigro and Torres both compared the severity of the fire to a fire in 1990 at the Happy Land Social Club that killed 87 people when a man set the building on fire after an argument with his former girlfriend and out was thrown at the Bronx Club.
The Sunday death toll was the highest in a fire in the city since the Happy Land fire. It was also the deadliest fire in a U.S. home since 2017, when 13 people died in an apartment building, also in the bronx, according to the state fire brigade association.
This fire has started with a 3 year old boy who plays with hotplates and resulted in several legislative changes in New York City, including the creation of a fire brigade education plan for children and parents and a requirement that certain residential buildings install self-closing doors.
The fire on Sunday occurred just days after 12 people including eight children, was Killed in a Philadelphia apartment fire. The deadliest fire before that was in 1989 when a house fire in Tennessee killed 16 people.