A massive fire ignited accidentally by a three-year-old boy swept through a five-story apartment building in New York, killing at least 12 people including a toddler and injuring four others in the deadliest blaze to hit the city in decades.
The fire broke out around 6:50 pm (local time) yesterday on the first floor of the Prospect Avenue apartment in the Bronx borough of the city and spread quickly, officials said, adding that the cause of the blaze is under investigation.
“We found that this fire started in a kitchen on the first floor,” fire commissioner Daniel Nigro said.
“It started from a young boy, three and a half years old, playing with the burners on the stove. The fire got started, the mother was not aware of it – she was alerted by the young man screaming.”
The boy’s mother fled with her two children, leaving the door to the apartment open – allowing the flames to shoot up the stairway and quickly spread in the building.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio during a late night briefing outside the building, near the Bronx Zoo, called the fire the “worst fire tragedy in this city in at least a quarter century.”
“This is the worst fire tragedy we have seen in this city — it will rank as one of the worst losses in a fire in many years,” the mayor said.
More than 160 firefighters helped bring the blaze under control. The building had no elevators. A one-year-old child was among those killed in the blaze.
“The victims, ranging in age from 1 to 50, died on various floors of the apartment building,” Niger said. He said that the tragedy is “historic in its magnitude”.
At least 12 people were rescued, but the search of the building continues, and the death toll could rise further, the mayor warned.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo in a tweet said that he is closely monitoring the devastating fire in the Bronx. “As always we are thankful for our first responders. Our thoughts are with the victims and their families tonight,” he said.
The building, which had more than 20 flats, was built just over 100 years ago, the New York Times reported, adding that it was not fireproof.
The daily citing the City records said that the building had six open violations, including one for a defective smoke detector on the first floor.
That was the floor where the fire began, Commissioner Nigro said.
The blaze was the worst in the city since 87 people were killed in a 1990 inferno at a Bronx social club.