Some residents “could not escape because of the volume of smoke,” Nigro said. Firefighters “found victims on every floor and were taking them out in cardiac and respiratory arrest,” he said, calling it “unprecedented.”
Stefan Ringel, a senior adviser to Mayor Eric Adams, said the children killed were 16 years old or younger. Many of the building’s residents were originally from the West African nation of Gambia, Adams said, and there was a large Muslim community.
Thirteen people remained hospitalized in critical condition, Ringel said. In all, more than five dozen people were hurt. Most of the victims had severe smoke inhalation, Nigro said. Adams called the toll “horrific.”
“We’ve lost 19 of our neighbors today. It’s a tragedy beyond measure. Join me in praying for those we lost, especially the 9 innocent young lives that were cut short,” tweeted Adams, who was sworn in Jan. 1.
Approximately 200 firefighters responded to the building on East 181st Street around 11 a.m. Sunday.
News photographers captured images of firefighters entering the upper floors of the burning building on a ladder, multiple limp children being given oxygen after they were carried out and evacuees with faces covered in soot.
Building resident Luis Rosa said he was awakened Sunday by a fire alarm, but dismissed it at first, thinking it was one of the building’s periodic false alarms.
But when a notification popped up on his phone, he and his mother began to worry. By then, smoke began wafting into his 13th-floor apartment and he heard sirens in the distance.
He opened the front door, but the smoke had gotten too thick for an escape, he said.
“Once I opened the door, I couldn’t even see that far down the hallway,” Rosa told The Associated Press. “So I said, OK, we can’t run down the stairs because if we run down the stairs, we’re going to end up suffocating.”
“All we could do was wait,” he said.
Another resident, Vernessa Cunningham said she raced home from church after getting an alert on her cellphone that the building was on fire.
“I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. I was in…