A fire in an apartment building in New York City’s borough of the Bronx has killed at least 12 people, including an infant, and left four others fighting for their lives.
The blaze broke out on the first floor of the brick building just before 7:00pm on Thursday (local time), and quickly spread upstairs.
About 170 firefighters worked in chilling cold, around -9 degrees Celsius, to rescue 12 people from the five-storey building. Water sprayed from hoses froze into ice on the street.
Fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro said people died “on various floors” of the apartment, with the ages of the victims ranging from one to 50.
“This tragedy is without question historic in its magnitude,” he said.
“Our hearts go out to every person who lost a loved one here and everyone who is fighting for their lives.
“In a department that is surely no stranger to tragedy, we’re shocked by the lives lost.”
Mayor Bill de Blasio said four other residents were “fighting for their lives” with serious injuries.
“Hold your families close and keep those families here in the Bronx in your prayers,” he said.
“This will rank as one of the worst losses of life to a fire in many, many years.”
The building is in a close-knit neighbourhood known as the borough’s “Little Italy”, a block from the grounds of the Bronx Zoo.
Neighbourhood resident Robert Gonzalez, who has a friend who lives in the building, said she got out on a fire escape as another resident fled with five children.
“When I got here, she was crying,” Mr Gonzalez said.
There was no serious damage to the exterior of the building visible in news footage and images from the scene, but windows on some upper floors were smashed and blackened.
“The smoke was crazy, people screaming, ‘Get out!” a witness, Jamal Flicker, told the New York Post.
“I heard a woman yelling, ‘We’re trapped, help
According to city records, the building had no elevator. Fire escapes were visible on the facade of the building.
The cause of the fire is under investigation.
One of the deadliest fires in recent city memory happened elsewhere in the Bronx in 2007. Nine children and one adult died in a blaze sparked by a space heater.