NEW YORK (AP) — Sorrow welled across a Bronx community Monday, a day after a fire and choking smoke engulfed a high-rise apartment building and killed 19 people, nine of them children.
As survivors recalled the frantic moments of their escape, bereft family and friends of those who perished were coping with shock, disbelief and pain.
Mahamadou Toure tried to find the words outside a hospital emergency room hours after the Sunday fire took the life of his 5-year-old daughter and her teenage brother.
“Right now my heart is very …,” Toure tried telling the Daily News, before composing himself.
“It’s OK. I give it to God,” he continued.
His wife screamed the name of a neighbor, as the unconscious teenager was wheeled away on a gurney.
Mayor Eric Adams said Monday morning that several people were in critical condition after a malfunctioning space heater, officials said, sparked the city’s deadliest fire in three decades.
“We pray to God that they’ll be able to pull through,” Adams said on CNN.
Prayers were planned Monday for the victims, as friends, neighbors and strangers sought to console the grieving.
“’I’m so sorry for the people that lost their children and their mothers because we all are one. And for this to happen, it’s horrible,” said Tysena Jacobs, a building resident.
Many who lived at the apartment complex formed a close-knit community, and soon word was spreading about who might have died amidst the smoke and fire.
Hassane Badr awaited the fate of a 25-year-old cousin. He already knew two of his own siblings had died, while a 12-year-old brother was being treated at the hospital for smoke inhalation. He told the New York Times that 11 members of his family, including his parents and siblings, lived in the building.
“I’m thinking like I’m dreaming, this is not true. You hear people crying, my goodness,” Badr told The Times. “To be honest, I’m not believing it right now.”
Ousman Tunkara was frantically trying to reach his sister after hearing from a relative that his young niece may have died.
“She was a baby,” Tunkara told the Daily News. “I’m sad … I’m sad.”
Neighborhood residents, Johanna Bellevue among them, donated clothes and other necessities to survivors.
“Baby clothes, baby food, books, jackets, sneakers, whatever I can just given out whenever I can,” Bellevue said. “I can’t do much but what I have.”