NEW YORK (AP) – Doctors on Monday were trying to save the lives of people who were seriously injured the previous day in a raging fire in the Bronx sector of New York City, where 17 people died, including eight children. old.
Large numbers of people remained hospitalized, and Mayor Eric Adams said Monday morning that several remained in critical condition after the fire, the worst in the city in decades.
The mayor, in a somber tone, told CNN that the death toll could rise. “We are praying to God that they survive,” he added.
In a press conference later, Adams corrected the death toll, stating that it was two fewer than previously stated. He did not offer an explanation for the discrepancy.
Investigators determined that the fire in the 19-story building was caused by a faulty heater that was turned on because it was very cold Sunday morning.
The flames damaged only a small part of the structure, but the smoke leaked through the open door of the apartment and flooded the stairs, which in that building were the only escape route since it is too high to have external stairs.
Some of the neighbors were unable to escape due to the intense volume of smoke, reported firefighter commander Daniel Nigro. Others were incapacitated in their escape attempt. Firefighters found victims on every floor, many with heart or breathing difficulties, Nigro said.
Some minors were carried out of the building and immediately received oxygen. Some had their faces covered in ashes.
Firefighters continued to rescue people even after their oxygen tanks ran out, Adams said.
“Their oxygen tanks were empty and despite this they braved the smoke to rescue the others,” said the mayor.
Nigro claimed that an investigation has been opened to determine how the fire spread and if there was any way to prevent or contain the flames.
Adams said the smoke appeared to spread because a door was open that was supposed to close automatically.
“It is possible that this door had a maintenance problem. And that will be part of the investigation, “Adams said on Good Morning America.
New large buildings in New York City are required by law to have rooftop showers and doors that close automatically to deprive any fire of oxygen, but the law does not apply to older buildings.
Correspondents Michael R. Sisak and Jennifer Peltz in New York and Andrew Selsky in Salem, Oregon contributed to this story.