As many as 19 people were killed in an apartment fire in New York City on Sunday morning, Jan. 9, making it the deadliest fire in the city in about three decades.
According to The Associated Press, the fire occurred in a 19-story Bronx apartment building, blowing thick smoke from a lower-floor apartment where it started.
Among the deaths includes nine children, who were 16 years old or younger, according to Stefan Ringel, a senior adviser to New York Mayor Eric Adams.
The fire also hurt more than five dozen people and forced 13 others to be hospitalized in critical condition.
Residents in the apartment were forced to break windows for air and stuff wet towels under doors. Evacuees had faces covered in soot.
About 200 firefighters responded to the building fire which is allocated at East 181st Street around 11 a.m. on Sunday.
The city’s Fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro said that investigators found the fire “started in a malfunctioning electric space heater” in an apartment unit spanning the second and third floors of the high-rise building. The smoke quickly spread throughout the building because the door to the apartment and a door to a stairwell were left open.
The commissioner said that victims were found on every floor, many of them in cardiac and respiratory arrest, and some could not escape because of the smoke. Most of the victims had severe smoke inhalation.
Some victims said that the smoke was so thick and black that they could not see. Many were heard crying and screaming.
Some others said they heard sirens at the apartment tower but initially thought they were false alarms.
The 120-unit building was built in 1973. The Sunday’s death toll was the highest for a fire in New York City since the Happy Land fire, according to data from the National Fire Protection Association.