A fire in a New York apartment building killed at least 12 people and seriously injured many more, US officials said. A 3-year-old boy playing with the stove ignited the fire that quickly spread through the building.
At least 12 people, including four children, were killed in the blaze that started on a brutally cold Thursday night, making it the city's "worst fire in several decades." The fire originated on the first floor of a five-floor building in New York City's Bronx borough. A 1-year-old child was among the victims.
"We may lose others as well," Mayor Bill de Blasio said, addressing reporters at the scene. "This will rank as one of the worst losses of life to a fire in many, many years."
The boy's mother told police that her son had a history of playing with the stove. When the fire erupted in the kitchen she grabbed her son and his younger sibling and fled the building. In so doing she made what would prove to be a deadly mistake — leaving the door to her apartment open, said Daniel Nigro, the city's fire commissioner.
"The stairway acted like a chimney," he said, feeding oxygen to the flames as they climbed the five-story structure.
"People had very little time to react," he added. "They couldn't get back down the stairs. Those that tried perished."
The mayor added that at least four more people were critically injured, with others suffering serious injuries as well. On Twitter, he thanked the Fire Department for their "bravery and quick action."
The building has no elevator, according to city records.
"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!'"
Firefighters managed to rescue at least 12 people, Mayor de Blasio said.
"This tragedy is without question historic in its magnitude," said Fire Commissioner Nigro.
"People died on various floors of the apartment, ranging in age from 1 to over 50," he added.
About 160 firefighters were at the scene and searching the building for survivors. The Fire Department said that the blaze had been brought under control and eventually extinguished by the firefighters.
Previously, de Blasio's spokesman Eric Phillips described the blaze as "horrible." A nearby school has been set up as a shelter to house the survivors.
The Bronx was also the site of the deadly fire of 1990 when 87 people were killed in the blaze set by a Cuban refugee. Most of the victims were Hondurans celebrating Carnival.
bik,dj/msh (AP, dpa, Reuters, AFP)