NEW YORK (AP) – At least 19 people, including nine children, were killed in an apartment building burning Sunday in the Bronx borough, the worst fire in New York City in more than three decades.
Stefan Ringel, an advisor to Mayor Eric Adams, confirmed the death toll. He noted that the minors killed were 16 years old or younger.
Thirteen people remained hospitalized in serious condition, Ringel said. In all, more than 5 dozen were injured. Most of the victims suffered heavy smoke inhalation, said Daniel Nigro, fire department commissioner.
Adams called the death toll from the fire “horrendous,” noting that “this is going to be one of the worst fires we have witnessed in modern times.”
Firefighters “found victims at each level and were taking them out with cardiac and respiratory arrest,” he added. “This is unprecedented in our city.”
About 200 individuals attended the fire around 11 a.m. Sunday at the Twin Park Apartments, a 19-story building on East 181st Street. According to initial reports, the fire was on the third level and flames were coming out of the windows.
News media photographers captured images of firefighters entering upper floors after climbing external stairs, many children struggling to get oxygen supplied, and people evicted with soot covered in their faces.
A resident of the building, Luis Rosa, said the fire alarm woke him up on Sunday, but he initially ignored it, thinking it was another of the false alarms that had been in the building.
But then a notification appeared on his phone, so he and his mother began to worry. By this time, smoke was beginning to flood her apartment on the 13th level and she could hear sirens in the distance.
He opened the front door, but the smoke was so thick that escape was no longer possible, he added.
“When I opened the door, I couldn’t even see the end of the hall,” Rosa told The Associated Press. “So I said to myself: ‘Okay, we can’t run down the stairs because if we do we will end up asphyxiated.’
“All we could do was wait,” he said.
Another resident, Vernessa Cunningham, 60, said she ran home from the church after receiving an alert on her cell phone that the building was on fire.
“I could not believe what I was seeing. I was shocked, ”Cunningham said from a nearby school where some residents gathered. “I could see my apartment. All the windows had smashed. And I could see flames coming out of the back of the building. “
Associated Press reporters Michael R. Sisak and Jennifer Peltz contributed to this report.