New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio says the Bronz fire that killed 12 people may have been caused by a child playing with a stove.
The fire, which broke out on Thursday night at 7pm local time on the first floor of a five-storey brick building, was the worst fire the city had seen in 25 years, according to Mayor de Blasio.
Authorities say the mother of the toddler reportedly grabbed her child and ran out of her apartment, leaving the door open and causing flames to escalate up the stairwells.
He said families had been “torn apart” in the “unspeakable tragedy in the middle of the holiday season”.
“What we think at this point is that unfortunately it emanated from an accident, a young child playing with a stove on the first floor of the building,” de Blasio told WNYC radio on Friday.
Children ages one, two and seven died, along with four men and four women, local media reported. An unidentified boy also died.
“This is the worst fire tragedy we have seen in this city in a quarter of a century. It will rank as one of the worst losses of life to a fire in many years,” he said.
In a message to New Yorkers, Mayor de Blasio said: “Hold your families close and keep those families here in the Bronx in your prayers.”
BREAKING: NYC Mayor de Blasio says at least 12 people are dead in massive apartment fire in the Bronx. "This will rank as one of the worst losses of life to a fire in many, many years." https://t.co/vCAyse6kD2 pic.twitter.com/Ul5UhMOkni
— ABC News (@ABC) December 29, 2017
New York City Fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro told reporters the “tragedy is without question historic in its magnitude”.
“In a department that’s certainly no stranger to tragedy, we’re shocked at this loss, 12 have died and four are fighting for their lives.
“People died on various floors of the apartment, ranging in age from 1 to over 50,” he said.
Commissioner Nigro said that as a result of the “heroic efforts” of firefighters, another 12 people were rescued.
This tragedy is, without question, historic in its magnitude. Our hearts go out to every family who lost a loved one here and everyone fighting for their lives –#FDNY Commissioner Nigro
— FDNY (@FDNY) December 29, 2017
More than 170 New York City firefighters raced to four alarms in a five-storey building on Prospect Avenue, located one block from the grounds of the Bronx Zoo.
The building, with 26 apartments, has at least six open building code violations, according to city records.
One violation was for a broken smoke detector in an apartment on the first floor, reported in August.
It was not clear if the detector had been fixed or replaced or whether it had played any role in the fire.
“I know there were concerns raised about the building itself,” de Blasio told WNYC on Friday. “Based on the research we have at this moment, it does not appear there was anything problematic about the building or the fire safety in the building.”
New York is going through a bitter cold snap with freezing temperatures and high winds, which according to one media account, stoked flames inside the building as residents flung open doors and windows.
Wherever fire hoses sprayed, the ground was covered with sheets of ice, according to an NY1 reporter.