At least 19 people died and dozens were injured when a fire tore through a high-rise apartment building in New York City on Sunday, its mayor said, in one of America’s worst residential fires in recent memory.
Both the New York Times and CNN sourced unnamed officials as saying that nine children were among the dead.
“We know that we have 19 people who are confirmed dead, as well as several others in critical condition,” Mayor Eric Adams told CNN, adding that 63 people had been wounded.
“This is going to be one of the worst fires in our history,” he said.
At least 200 firefighters responded to the blaze, which broke out mid-morning on the second and third floors of a 19-story building on East 181st Street, several blocks west of the Bronx Zoo.
Neighbors spoke of seeing residents desperately waving from floors, apparently trapped and unable to escape.
“It was chaos,” George King, who lives directly adjacent the building told AFP.
“I’ve been here 15 years and it’s the first time I’ve seen something like this.
“I saw the smoke, a lot of people were panicking. You could see that no one wanted to jump from the building. People were waving from the windows,” he added.
The cause of the fire was not immediately clear.
The injured were taken to five hospitals; many suffered from cardiac and respiratory arrest, the New York Times reported.
The blaze comes just four days after a fire in Philadelphia killed 12 people, including eight children, in a three-story public housing building.
In New York, there were fears of a growing toll.
“The last time we had a loss of life that may be this horrific was a fire which was over 30 years ago, also here in the Bronx,” said Fire Marshal Dan Nigro, quoted by NBC News.
Flames quickly engulfed much of the structure, and Nigro said the smoke was so dense as to be “unprecedented.”
Photographs and video posted on social media showed flames and thick black smoke billowing out of a third-story window of the brick building as firefighters operated on a nearby ladder.
“This is truly a tragedy,” said Adams, adding that many residents had been displaced.
“This is really a horrific day for us,” he said.
In December 2017, 13 people were killed in a blaze in an apartment building in the Bronx in New York City’s deadliest fire in 25 years.