Sat, Dec 30, 2017 - Page 6 News List

Blaze kills at least 12 in New York City

HOLIDAY TRAGEDY:Four people were critically injured and 12 were rescued, but New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said the death toll could rise as a search continued

AFP, NEW YORK

A fire on Thursday tore through a Bronx apartment building, killing at least 12 people, including a toddler, and leaving four others fighting for their lives in New York City’s deadliest blaze in decades.

The fire broke out at about 6:51pm in a 25-apartment building near the Bronx Zoo, one of the most popular tourist attractions in the US financial capital.

A one-year-old child was among those killed as Red Cross volunteers handed out blankets and emergency responders set up a makeshift shelter in a nearby school on a bitterly cold night.

Tearful residents spoke of hearing shouts of “fire, fire” in the building and a mad rush to exit the property, battling past the smoke, with just the clothes on their backs, into the sub-freezing night.

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio called it an “unspeakable tragedy” in the middle of the holiday season, when families come together, as the city of 8.5 million straddles Christmas and New Year festivities.

“Tonight here in the Bronx there are families that have been torn apart. This is the worst fire tragedy we have seen in this city in at least a quarter century,” De Blasio said.

“I am sorry to report 12 New Yorkers are dead, including one child as young as one year old,” he told reporters after firefighters extinguished the flames.

“There are four people critically injured who are fighting for their lives, other serious injuries as well,” he added.

The fire began on the first floor and spread rapidly through the five-floor walk-up on Prospect Avenue, with firefighters on the scene within three minutes, New York Fire Department Chief Daniel Nigro said.

TV footage showed firefighters plucking panicked residents to safety from a fire escape.

Two of the dead were discovered in a bath tub full of water, where they had apparently sheltered from the blaze, US media reported.

Nigro said it was “way too early” to comment on the cause of the fire.

At least 12 people were rescued, but the search of the building continues, and the death toll could rise further, the mayor warned.

“This tragedy is, without question, historic in its magnitude. Our hearts go out to every family who lost a loved one here and everyone fighting for their lives,” Nigro said.

“People died on various floors, they range in ages from one to over 50,” he said. “In a department that’s certainly no stranger to tragedy, we’re shocked at this loss.”

It was the second deadly New York residential blaze in less than two weeks. A mother and three children were killed in Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn, when a fire tore through their home on Monday last week.

In March 2007, 10 people were killed in another fire in the Bronx that tore through a home of two immigrant families, itself the worst fire in the city since 1990 apart from the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.

The New York Times said Thursday’s blaze was the worst in the city since 87 people were killed in a 1990 inferno at a Bronx social club.

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