By the time firefighters had extinguished the flames a few hours later, 12 people, including five children, had been killed, and four others were "fighting for their lives" in local hospitals, New York City Fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro said Friday.
Francis' two children, two-year-old Kylie Francis and seven-year-old Kelesha Francis, along with her 19-year-old niece Shawntay Young, are said to be among the dead. Five of the building's residents were already dead when the fire department arrived three minutes after the first 911 call.
The city's fire commissioner said the blaze began on the first floor of the five-story building and spread quickly.
The New York City mayor's press secretary says at least six people have died in a blaze at a Bronx apartment building on a frigid night, and several more have been injured.
While the doors are required in any apartment building with more than three units, they sometimes do not work properly because they get clogged or dirty, NY fire-safety consultant Jim Bullock said.
"I was doing what any pastor would do", said Father Morris in a December 29 telephone interview with Catholic News Service. Grabbing her son and her 2-year-old child, the woman quickly fled, leaving her apartment door open as she exited the building, Nigro told reporters Friday.
"Children starting fires is not rare", Nigro said.
She expressed regret at the tragedy and said the Foreign Ministry was working with the Jamaican Consulate in NY to get details on the deaths. But they left the apartment door open behind them, and it acted like a chimney that drew smoke and flames into a stairwell. That was the last time they were together, much to her regret now. Not considering the possibility of a fire, Sakyi said she initially took off all of her clothes, but then went to the door to see what was happening.More news: Food chain tests 'Merry Munchie Meal' for marijuana smokers
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The management company for the building's owner, D&E Equities, said it was talking to city officials and was "shocked and saddened" by the deaths and injuries.
In 2007, 10 immigrants from Mali, including nine children, died after a space heater caught fire in a Bronx building.
Thursday's fire was New York's deadliest since 87 people were killed in a 1990 inferno at a Bronx social club, The Times said.
About 170 firefighters worked in bone-chilling cold, just 15 degrees, to rescue about a dozen people from the building.
Footage taken at the site shows charred walls and stairs inside the building. But another family on the fifth floor suffered unimaginable tragedy.
One brother's girlfriend was coming into the building when she saw smoke, called him and called police. He said the baby's mother wasn't home because she was working.
Some residents made it down fire escapes.
"That's my prayer", Bredu said.