Sadness and sadness flooded a community in the Bronx district of New York a day later. a devastating fire and suffocating smoke engulfed a tall apartment building, killing 17 people, including eight children.
Survivors on Monday recalled the raging chaos of their escape while family and friends of those killed dealt with shock, disbelief and pain.
“Some people do not even know that their loved ones are gone,” said Fathia Touray, whose mother and siblings lived on the third floor of the building where the fire started.
One sister was rushed to a hospital but is now in a stable condition while the rest of her immediate family escaped, Touray told The Associated Press news agency from her home in the United Arab Emirates.
Renee Howard, 68, became emotional when she spoke about the lives lost.
“I have never experienced such devastation. “My neighbor died, children died – I do not understand, I do not understand,” she said as she burst into sobs. All those lives, she said, were “snatched away in a second.”
Firefighters determined through physical evidence and bills from residents that the fire broke out in a portable electric heater in a bedroom of an apartment in the 19-story Twin Parks North West building, creating affordable low-income housing units New Yorkers provided.
The heat was on in the apartment building and the portable heater supplemented that heating, they said.
The flames damaged only a small part of the building, but smoke flowed through the apartment’s open door and turned stairs into dark, ash-choked death traps. The stairs were the only way to escape into a tower that was too high for fire stairs.
Officials said it was the city’s deadliest fire in three decades. Mayor Eric Adams, just over a week into the post, said Monday morning several people are still in critical condition.
“This is a global tragedy as the Bronx and New York City are representative of the ethnicities and cultures around the world,” Adams said in a news release in front of the building. “It is a growing crisis. An unspeakable tragedy. “
New York authorities also said the city is investigating a possible “maintenance issue” with doors that could not close when the fire broke out.
Adams said he spoke with U.S. President Joe Biden, who promised that the White House “whatever” the needs of New York would be in the wake of the fire.
The disaster would likely raise questions about safety standards in low-income urban housing. It was the second major fire in a residential complex in the U.S. this week after 12 people, including eight children, died early Wednesday when flames washed through an apartment building for public housing in Philadelphia.
Clearance crews dressed in white hazmat suits were at the scene in the Bronx cleaning glass and debris off sidewalks Monday while firefighters and firefighters continued to search the building’s inside and outside. The street was cordoned off where a small group of people gathered, some bringing clothes and other donations to help victims.
At Masjid-ur-Rahmah, a mosque just a few blocks from the apartment building, more than two dozen people gathered in solidarity. Many of those who pray at the mosque live in the building.
About a dozen women cried in the mosque and mourned the loss of three young children in the fire. Members of the congregation were not sure if the children’s parents’s survived, and many family members feared the worst.
“We belong to God and we return to God,” said the mosque’s imam, Musa Kabba, who urged congregation members to be patient while waiting for news about loved ones.
Many who lived in the apartment complex formed a close-knit community, and soon the news spread about who might have died in the midst of the smoke and fire.
“I am so sorry for the people who lost their children and their mothers, because we are all one. And for that to happen, it’s awful, ”said Tysena Jacobs, a building resident.
Mahamadou Toure tried to find the words outside a hospital’s emergency room hours after the fire took the lives of his 5-year-old daughter and her teenage brother.
“Right now my heart is very …,” Toure tried to tell the Daily News, before composing himself. “It’s OK. I give it to God,” he continued.