Pope mourns victims of New York apartment blaze
By Devin Watkins
A fire broke out in a 19-story apartment building in the Bronx on Sunday morning.
Over 200 firefighters were sent to battle the blaze, which enveloped the second and third floors. Smoke filled the entire building, and officials said victims were found on every floor.
At least 19 residents died, including 9 children. Another 32 people were sent to hospital, with several of them in critical condition.
Spiritual closeness and prayers
Pope Francis reached out on Monday to the victims and their families with a telegram of condolences signed by Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin and addressed to Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the Archbishop of New York.
The Pope was “saddened to learn of the recent devastating fire in the Bronx in which a number of children lost their lives.”
He offered his “heartfelt condolences and the assurances of his spiritual closeness to those affected by this tragedy.”
The Holy Father also entrusted those affected “to the merciful love of Almighty God” and invoked “upon all consolation and strength in the Lord.”
Electric heater started fire
Officials with the New York City fire department said the blaze started in an apartment that spanned the second and third floors and was started by a malfunctioning space heater.
They added that it is the city’s deadliest fire in three decades, and that the building housed a large Muslim population.
Fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro said some residents became trapped in their apartments by the smoke. Some broke windows for air and stuffed wet towels under doors to keep the smoke from entering.
Rescue crews found many of the victims in a state of cardiac and respiratory arrest.
New York Mayor Eric Adams told reporters that firefighters continued to search for survivors even after their limited air supplies ran out.
“Their oxygen tanks were empty and they still pushed through the smoke,” he said.
Flames scorched only the apartment where the blaze began and an adjacent hallway.
But officials said a door to a stairwell had been left open, allowing smoke to quickly spread through the building.