Twelve people were killed, including an infant, and four were critically injured on Thursday in a fire that swept through several floors of an apartment building in the New York City borough of the Bronx, Mayor Bill de Blasio said.
The blaze started on the first floor of the brick building and quickly spread upstairs, city Fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro told reporters at a news conference with the mayor. The cause was under investigation.
De Blasio said the death toll ranked as “one of the worst losses of life to a fire in many, many years” in the city.
Four people were in hospital in critical condition “fighting for their lives,” the mayor said.
Authorities said firefighters rescued 12 people from the building.
“People died on various floors of the apartment, ranging in age from 1 to over 50,” Nigro told reporters. “In a department that is surely no stranger to tragedy, we’re shocked by the lives lost.”
Two of the dead were found in a bathtub, according to cable news station NY1.
“Hold your families close and keep those families here in the Bronx in your prayers,” de Blasio said in a message to New Yorkers.
The blaze erupted shortly before 7 p.m. in the Belmont section of the Bronx, a primarily residential, close-knit neighbourhood known as the “Little Italy” of the borough, adjacent to the Bronx Zoo and Fordham University.