A massive apartment building fire has claimed the lives of 12 people in the worst fire New York City has seen in 25 years.
The blaze happened in a century-old apartment building last Thursday night. The flames spread so quickly that residents had little time to respond, leaving multiple people trapped in an ancient building as fire and smoke continued to rise.
By the time firefighters were able to get the fire under control, 12 people had died. Four more were rushed to hospital with critical injuries.
The New York City Medical Examiner confirmed eight of the dead: Karen Francis, 37; Shantay Young, 19; Kylie Francis, 2; Charmela Francis, 7; Maria Batiz, 58; Amora Vidal, 7 months; Emmanuel Mensah, 28; Justice Opoku and Donkor Sollomon, 49.
Four remain unidentified, but the Examiner confirmed that one was a 12-year-old boy and another a 50-year-old man.
The fire started on the first floor of the apartment building. A three-year-old toddler was playing with the burners on the family’s stove when it caused a kitchen fire. The mother rushed her three-year-old and two-year-old to safety, but by then the fire had already started to spread.
“The fire got started, the mother was not aware of it. Was alerted by the young [boy] screaming,” said New York City Fire Department Commissioner Daniel Nigro at a news conference. “She exited her apartment with her two-year-old and three-year-old and left the door open. So the fire quickly spread up the stairs.”
The stairwell "acted like a chimney" according to Nigro, allowing the fire to spread quickly by providing a steady supply of oxygen. Fire and smoke filled the apartment, leaving residents will little time to escape.
According to the New York Times, the apartment building was built in 1916 with 25 apartments. The building is located just a few blocks away from the Bronx Zoo.
The fire started at 7 PM local time and quickly spread throughout the building. Firefighters arrived three minutes after the blaze started, and had the fire under control around 10 PM.
New York Mayor Bill de Blasio called the fire the worst the city had seen in a quarter of a century.
Tonight in the Bronx we've seen the worst fire tragedy in at least a quarter of a century. It is an unspeakable tragedy, and families have been torn apart. pic.twitter.com/0kCFMzxt79— Bill de Blasio (@NYCMayor) December 29, 2017
“Tonight in the Bronx we’ve seen the worst fire tragedy in at least a quarter of a century. It is an unspeakable tragedy, and families have been torn apart,” de Blasio wrote in a statement on Twitter. “I want to offer my prayers to all the families who have lost their loved ones this evening or who are struggling. I ask all New Yorkers to keep them in your prayers, too.”