NEW YORK: New York Mayor Eric Adams said on Monday that a “significant number” of the Bronx fire victims were Muslims, originally from Gambia.
At least 19 people, including nine children, were killed on Sunday when an apartment building in the New York borough of Bronx caught fire.
A representative for the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA), which was working with other Muslim charity groups to help the survivors, said “almost all the victims” were Muslims.
Mayor Adams said the city was coordinating with faith leaders to ensure the dead receive Islamic burial rites.
City officials also confirmed that the fire injured more than 63 people, 32 of whom were in life-threatening condition. Most of them were Muslims too.
“This is a horrific, horrific, painful moment for the city of New York,” Mayor Adams said.
The mayor assured the survivors that the city will not share the names of building residents seeking government assistance with the department of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Earlier reports suggested that the survivors were reluctant to seek help as they feared deportation.
“We’re all feeling this. And we’re going to be here for this community to help them navigate through this,” Mayor Adams said. “Your names will not be turned over to ICE or any other institution.”
New York Governor Kathy Hochul said she would establish a victim’s compensation fund, and New York Senator Chuck Schumer promised to offer housing, tax and immigration assistance at the federal level. “This is a night of tragedy and pain. And tomorrow we begin to rebuild,” Governor Hochul said.
The fire started just before 11am on Sunday, in a duplex apartment on the second and third floors of the building, which houses African immigrants. “And significant number of them are practicing Muslims,” a city official told reporters.
The New York Times reported that the firefighters arrived within three minutes and encountered smoke that extended the entire height of the 19-story building.
New York Fire Commissioner Daniel A. Nigro told reporters that “the smoke conditions in this building were unprecedented,” and that victims had suffered from severe smoke inhalation.
Crews entering the building found victims “on every floor” and were taking them out in “cardiac and respiratory arrest,” he said.
Mayor Adams, who described it as one of the worst fires in the city’s recent history, said that apparently a malfunctioning room-heater caused the fire.