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Horrific fire at 19-storey New York City building leaves at least 19 dead, dozens more critically injured

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New York City’s worst fire disaster in more than 30 years killed nine children and ten adults and left dozens more critically injured on Sunday.

The five-alarm blaze erupted shortly before 11 am on the third floor of a 19-story building at 333 East 181st Street in the Bronx.

‘Numerous’ fatalities are anticipated, FDNY Commissioner Dan Nigro said in a press conference.

The five-alarm blaze broke out just before 11 a.m. at 333 E 181st St, a 19-story building in the West Bronx, the FDNY said and was knocked down about an hour later.

“There were bodies being carried off every floor,” a firefighter told the Post. “It was the worst fire I saw in 30 years.”

Around 200 FDNY members responded to battle the inferno, which broke out on the second and third floors of the building.

Engine 48 was the first team to respond to the fire — but apparently was short-staffed.

“They only had four firefighters instead of the five they are called for because of people out sick because of Covid,” said the Uniformed Firefighters Association president Andrew Ansbro. “Several of the first engines were in the same situation. If there was adequate staffing the fire could have been put out faster and people would have received medical aid sooner.”

Mayor Eric Adams said the fire “is going to be one of the worst fires we have witnessed in the City of New York in modern times.”G.N.Miller/NYPost
G.N.Miller/NYPost

One resident told the Post that people might not have fled the building because its fire alarm is constantly blaring.

“The fire alarm goes off in the hallway all the time, at least twice a week,” said the 18th-floor resident, who asked not to be named. “What do I do when I watch a movie? I put the volume up because it goes off all the time.

A fire broke out in a Bronx building Sunday morning, leaving numerous people seriously injured.

A fire broke out in a Bronx building Sunday morning, leaving numerous people seriously injured. Tomas E. Gaston

The fire broke out at t 333 E 181st St in the early hours of January 9, 2022.
The fire broke out at 333 E 181st St in the early hours of January 9, 2022. Tomas E. Gaston

“I don’t know if it’s faulty or what it is but it goes off all the time. People on the third, fourth, fifth and went about their day until they saw smoke,” he said.

Among the dead is a 4-year old, according to police sources. Fire officials said that at least 32 people sustained life-threatening injuries.

FDNY Commissioner Daniel Nigro said authorities “expect there to be numerous fatalities, but we don’t know yet.”

Footage from social media shows fire fighters attempting to scale numerous ladders in order to save people.
Footage from social media shows firefighters attempting to scale numerous ladders in order to save people.Twitter/nycfirewire

“This is going to be one of the worst fires we have witnessed in the City of New York in modern times,” Mayor Eric Adams said from the scene of the blaze Sunday, calling it “a horrific, horrific painful moment for the City of New York.”

“The impact of this fire is going to really bring a level of pain and despair in this city,” the mayor said at a press conference.

Among 63 residents injured, 32 had life-threatening injuries, nine had serious injuries, and 22 were treated with non-life-threatening injuries, Adams said. One FDNY member was also injured and brought to the hospital.

A firefighter removes a young resident from the building.
A firefighter removes a young resident from the building.G.N.Miller/NYPost

Nigro said at a presser that the department responded within three minutes.

“This smoke extended the entire height of the building, completely unusual,” he said. “Members found victims on every floor in stairwells.”

Nigro called the fire “unprecedented in our city.”

“The last time we had a loss of life that may be this horrific was at Happy Land Fire over 30 years ago here in the Bronx.”

Fire officials don’t yet know the origin of the fire.

A man is helped away from the scene of the fatal blaze.
A man is helped away from the scene of the fatal blaze.

“What I do know…is that the door to that apartment was left open causing the fire to spread and smoke to spread, which is always a problem for us. As we see here by the broken windows throughout the building, this fire took its toll on our city,” he said.

The building currently stands as a shell of its former self, with windows on multiple floors broken.

Cristal Diaz, 27, a resident of the 15th floor, grabbed cousins, her aunt and dog “Fluffy” when she realized there was a fire.

“I was drinking coffee in the living room and I started smelling smoke. We started putting water on towels and the bottom of the door. Everything was crazy,” Diaz said. “We didn’t know what to do. We looked out the windows and saw all the dead bodies they were taking with the blankets.

Alanny, 13, her niece, said, “We saw moms fainting. They saw their kids dying.”

Officials are still investigating the cause of the fire.
Officials are still investigating the cause of the fire. Tomas E. Gaston

“We saw a bunch of bodies coming out. People from my childhood were dying,” Alanny said.

Christopher Carrasquilo, 65, who lives next door, ran into the building to help save residents.

“A little kid was stuck in the elevator. I had to bring him down. It was something like 9/11,” he said with tears in his eyes.

“They need fire escapes. They gotta put fire escapes,” he said. “The owner who owns this building gotta do something about it.”

The FDNY said buildings of this height never have fire escapes.

Icy conditions made it tough to fight the fire, and the FDNY said it took more than an hour to put down the blaze.

Rachel McKenzie, a ninth-floor resident, was in tears at the scene. “It is all too much. Oh God,” she said. “They’re still looking for women and children. I can’t talk.”

Another ninth-floor resident, Fatima, who declined to give her last name, said she is blessed to be alive.

“You can’t explain it. Thank god I found my 3-year-old daughter. We went down the stairwell and it was pitch black. You couldn’t see a thing,” she said. “We went onto the 6th floor and a neighbor let us in and we stayed there until the firemen took us out. It was traumatizing.”

Stefan Eutsnu, who lives on the 4th floor with his wife and children, said chance kept his children alive.

Eutsnu took his children to his sister’s house Sunday morning.

“When I got back, I was in the apartment with my wife and we smell the smoke,” he said. The couple ran down the stairs, overwhelmed by smoke. He said he couldn’t see a thing until he got outside, and that’s when he saw “all the hurt children.”

Harrowing images from the scene show a firefighter cradling a baby rescued from the fire, a victim on a stretcher, and a woman sitting on the ground being helped by paramedics with soot on her face.

Hame Wague, 16, lives with nine family members on a third-floor apartment.

“My grandma was sleeping and she smelled smoke and quickly woke up and screamed fire! Fire! My dad knocked on everybody’s door. We quickly made sure everybody was OK, that everybody got out the apartment,” he said. “There was smoke everywhere.”

Governor Kathy Hochul said she was “horrified by the devastating fire.”

“My heart is with the loved ones of all those we’ve tragically lost, all of those impacted and with our heroic FDNY firefighters,” she wrote on Twitter.

Before Sunday, the city’s deadliest blaze in more than a quarter-century killed 13 people —including a year-old child — in a Bronx apartment building the night of Thursday, Dec. 28, 2017. That fire was the deadliest New York City blaze since 87 people perished in March 1990 in the Happy Land social-club arson attack, which took place less than a mile away.

“Something like this happens, but you never expect this to happen to you,” Diaz, of the 15th floor, said.

 

About Charles Igbinidu

Charles Igbinidu is a Public Relations practitioner in Lagos, Nigeria

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