At least 19 people, including nine children, have died after a fire tore through an apartment block in New York City.
New York City Mayor Eric Adams confirmed the “horrific” number of dead in the Bronx apartment building fire.
A city official who was not allowed to speak to the media confirmed to Associated Press the number of children dead.
More than 60 people were injured and 13 people were still in critical condition in the hospital, Stefan Ringel, a senior adviser to Mayor Eric Adams said.
“This is going to be one of the worst fires that we have witnessed during modern times,” Mayor Eric Adams said.
“We’ve lost 19 of our neighbours today. It’s a tragedy beyond measure. Join me in praying for those we lost, especially the nine innocent young lives that were cut short,” he added on Twitter.
“To everyone affected by this tragedy: Your city will be with you in the days ahead.”
The majority of victims were suffering from severe smoke inhalation, New York City Fire Department commissioner Daniel Nigro said.
‘One of the worst fires to hit city in recent memory’
Around 200 firefighters responded to the blaze at the Twin Park apartments, a 19-storey building on the Bronx’s East 181st Street.
Some were seen working to push smoke out of the building with hose lines, and one of them was seen breaking a
window on an upper floor to release the fumes.
Photos posted online showing a rescue ladder extended up to the eighth floor, multiple limp children being given oxygen after being carried from the building, and evacuees with their faces covered in soot.
Firefighters “found victims on every floor and were taking them out in cardiac and respiratory arrest”, Mr Nigro said.
“That is unprecedented in our city. We expect there to be numerous fatalities.”
He added that the fire originated in a duplex apartment, spanning the second and third floors.
Firefighters then found the door to the apartment open, which apparently allowed the flames to accelerate and spread smoke quickly.
Mr Nigro went on to describe the blaze as one of the worst fires to hit the city in recent memory, comparing it to the Happy Land social club incident in 1990, which killed 89 people.
Fire not believed to be suspicious
Inspectors from the New York City Department of Buildings were also called to the scene, where they have been carrying out structural stability inspections and assisting firefighters.
The fire is not believed to be suspicious in origin but the cause is under investigation.
People in the nearby area have been advised to close their windows to avoid smoke inhalation by the New York City Emergency Management department.
The Angelo Patri Middle School has been opened for any of the residents displaced by the blaze, police announced.
The incident comes just days after a house fire in Philadelphia left 13 people – including seven children – dead