Nineteen people, including nine children, have been killed in an apartment fire in New York City, in what the city’s fire commissioner called one of the worst blazes in recent memory.
Fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro said the fire “started in a malfunctioning electric space heater” in an apartment unit spanning the second and third floors of the 19-story building.
The door of the apartment was left open, allowing smoke to quickly spread throughout the building, Mr Nigro said.
Mayor Eric Adams called the fire’s toll “horrific”.
“This is going to be one of the worst fires that we have witnessed during modern times,” he said.
Stefan Ringel, a senior adviser to mayor Eric Adams, confirmed the death toll on Sunday to the Associated Press, while a city official, who was not authorised to speak publicly, confirmed the number of children dead.
According to the FDNY, approximately 200 firefighters responded to the scene at the Bronx’s Twin Park apartments, a 19-storey building on East 181st Street.
Firefighters “found victims on every floor and were taking them out in cardiac and respiratory arrest,” Nigro said. “That is unprecedented in our city.”
Mr Nigro compared the severity of the fire to the Happy Land social club fire, which killed 87 people in 1990 when a man set fire to the building after getting into an argument with his former girlfriend and being thrown out of the club.
According to Mr Nigro, Sunday’s fire originated in a duplex apartment spanning the second and third floors.
A resident of the building, Cristal Diaz, 27, told the New York Post she was drinking coffee in her living room when she smelled the smoke.
“We started putting water on towels and the bottom of the door. Everything was crazy,” she said. “We didn’t know what to do. We looked out the windows and saw all the dead bodies they were taking with the blankets.”
Sunday’s blaze came just days after a Philadelphia house fire killed 12 people, including eight children, was the deadliest fire at a US residential apartment building since 2017 when 13 people died in an apartment in the Bronx neighbourhood of New York City, according to data from the National Fire Protection Association.
That fire started after a three-year-old boy was playing with stove burners.
The deadliest fire prior to that was in 1989 when a Tennessee apartment building fire claimed the lives of 16 people.