NEW YORK (AP) – Medics worked Monday to save the lives of several seriously injured people when smoke from a fire knocked them out or trapped them in their apartments in a high-rise building in New York City. Nineteen people, including nine children, died in the blaze.
New York City Mayor Eric Adams has revised the death toll in a high-rise fire, saying 17 people have been killed, two fewer than originally thought. Adams says nine adults and eight children died in the fire Sunday in the Bronx. He did not immediately provide a reason for the lower death toll.
Adams said Monday morning that several people were in critical condition after Sunday’s Bronx fire, already the city’s deadliest in three decades. A grim mayor told CNN the death toll could rise.
“We pray to God that they can get out of this,” he said.
READ MORE: 17 dead, including 9 children, in New York apartment fire
Investigators determined that a faulty electric heater, plugged in to provide additional heat on a cold morning, started the fire in the 19-story building.
The flames damaged only a small part of the building, but smoke escaped through the open door of the apartment and transformed the stairwells – the only method of theft in a building too high for fire escapes – in gloomy, ash-smothered horrors.
Some people were unable to escape due to the volume of smoke, said Fire Marshal Daniel Nigro. Others became incapacitated as they tried to get out. Firefighters found victims on every floor, many in cardiac and respiratory arrest, Nigro said.
Soft children have been seen receiving oxygen after their execution. Some of those who fled had their faces covered with soot.
Firefighters continued to perform rescues even after their air supply was exhausted, Adams said.
“Their oxygen tanks were empty and they were still pushing through the smoke,” Adams said.
Nigro said an investigation is underway to determine how the blaze spread and if anything could have been done to prevent or contain the blaze.
Adams said it appears the smoke has spread from a door that is supposed to close automatically.
“There may have been a maintenance issue with this door. And that will be part of… the ongoing investigation, ”Adams said on Good Morning America.
Large and new apartment buildings in the city must have sprinkler systems and interior doors that close automatically to contain smoke and deprive fires of oxygen, but these rules do not apply to thousands of apartment buildings. oldest in town.
The apartment building is fitted with smoke detectors, but several residents said they initially ignored them because alarms were so common in the 120-unit building.
Building resident Sandra Clayton grabbed her dog Mocha and ran for her life when she saw the hallway fill with smoke and heard people screaming, “Get out! To go out!”
Clayton, 61, said she groped down a dark staircase, hugging Mocha. The smoke was so black that she couldn’t see, but she could hear the neighbors moaning and crying nearby.
“I just walked down the steps as far as I could, but people were running over me screaming,” Clayton said from a hospital where she was treated for smoke inhalation.
In the commotion, his dog escaped him. Mocha was later found dead in the stairwell.
Hassane Badr told the New York Times that two of his siblings, both children, were killed and a 25-year-old cousin remains missing. Badr, 28, was waiting at Jacobi Medical Center for news of his 12-year-old brother, who was suffering from severe smoke inhalation. A 5-year-old sister was in another hospital.
“I think like I’m dreaming, it’s not true. You hear people cry, my God, ”Badr told the newspaper. “To be honest, I don’t believe it right now.”
Badr’s family, 11 from Mali, lived in a three-bedroom apartment on the third floor.
Mahamadou Touré struggled to express his grief outside the emergency room of the hospital where his 5-year-old daughter and the girl’s teenage brother died, according to the Daily News.
“Right now my heart is very…”, concluded Touré speaking to the New York Daily News. “It’s okay. I’m giving it to God.
Luis Rosa said he initially thought it was a false alarm. By the time he opened the door to his 13th-floor apartment, the smoke was so thick he couldn’t see into the hallway:, we’ll end up suffocating.
“All we could do was wait,” he said.
The fire was New York City’s deadliest since 1990, when 87 people died in an arson attack at the Happy Land social club, also in the Bronx. The borough was also the focus of a fatal apartment building fire in 2017 that killed 13 people and a fire in 2007, also started by a radiator, which left nine people dead.
Associated Press reporters Michael R. Sisak and Jennifer Peltz in New York City and Andrew Selsky in Salem, Ore., Contributed to this report.