New York City officials said smoke from the apartment fires was the cause of the deaths of 17 people, including eight children. The fire broke out in a residential building in the Bronx on Sunday.
In a press statement Monday, New York Fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro said the victims were taken to seven hospitals in the area, leading to a double tally and initial reports saying 19 people had died.
He said the number could rise again because 44 people were injured and at least 13 were still in critical condition.
Nigro told reporters the fire was caused by a faulty electric heater in the apartment and spread to the second and third floors. He added that the fire was contained on the outside of the apartment but because the door was left open when the occupants fled, the smoke from the fire spread throughout the building, and the victims died trying to escape through the hallway and stairs.
Nigro said the doors were designed to close automatically, but it seems the mechanism didn’t work when the fire broke out.
In a briefing on Monday, New York Mayor Eric Adams called the fire a “global tragedy” because the occupants of the building and the area around it represent residents of diverse ethnic and national backgrounds.
The White House said President Joe Biden spoke with Mayor Adams by telephone to express his “heartfelt condolences and offer support.”
Sunday’s fire was the deadliest in New York City since 87 people were killed in an arson attack on a nightclub in the Bronx in 1990. [jm/em]