12 dead in New York apartment blaze

Evacuees are seen after the fire in New York

Evacuees are seen after the fire in New York

Friday, December 29, 2017

The blaze which ripped through an apartment block in New York block last night was likely caused by a small child playing with a stove in a first-floor apartment, according to the Mayor's office.

Twelve people have been killed in the blaze, maming it the deadliest residential fire seen in the iconic US city in decades.

The fire broke out on the first floor at around 7pm local time (12am GMT) and quickly spread to every floor of the five-storey apartment building, located near Bronx Zoo. 

The speed of the fire forced the building's tenants, described as a mixture of native New Yorkers and immigrants from Africa and Latin America, to flee down fire escapes into the cold night air. Witnesses described the escapees shouting for help as they fled.

A child of just a year old was among the dead, and one local news outlet said two victims were found in a bathtub. Four more people were fighting for their lives overnight.

“People died on various floors of the apartment, ranging in age from 1 to over 50,” fire commissioner Daniel Nigro told reporters. “In a department that is surely no stranger to tragedy, we’re shocked by the lives lost.”

New York Mayor Bill De Blasio, speaking alongside Nigro at a news conference last night, said  “We’re here at the scene of an unspeakable tragedy. In the middle of the holiday season is a time when families are together. Tonight, here in the Bronx, there are families that have been torn apart."

Excluding 9/11, it is the worst fire witnessed in NewYork since 87 people died in a social club, also in the Bronx, in 1990.

Donald Trump has yet to tweet about the disaster.