A mum was found dead in a bathtub with her lifeless baby girl in her arms after desperately trying to protect her from an apartment fire , it is reported.
Twelve people, including the child and three other kids, died after the horror blaze broke out in the Bronx borough of New York City, US, last night.
Others have been left fighting for their lives after the tragedy, which saw more than 160 firefighters descend on the scene in the Belmont neighborhood.
One witness, Xanral Collins, described hearing a distraught dad repeatedly scream "My babies are dead" as he tried to get into the building.
Among those killed were a mum and her baby daughter.Read More
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The child's tiny body was reportedly discovered in a bathtub after the fire ripped through the five-storey apartment block just days after Christmas.
She was being cradled in the arms of her mum, who was trying to protect her, law enforcement and fire department sources told the New York Post .
The woman also tragically died in the blaze.
Early today, New York City investigators were searching for the cause of the fire, which was the city's deadliest blaze in at least a quarter of a century.
The fire broke out a little before 7pm EST (midnight GMT) yesterday on the first floor of a brick building and quickly spread upstairs, officials said.
It killed people on multiple floors, the New York City Fire Department said.Read More
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"We've lost 12 people and we could lose more," Mayor Bill de Blasio, who visited the scene of the fire, told CNN in an interview this morning.
"Some are still fighting for their lives. It's a horrible tragedy."
Three of the children who reportedly died in the blaze were aged one, two and seven, according to local media. The fourth was an unidentified boy.
Four men and four women are also said to have been killed.
Witness Xanral told the Post: "A father ran into the building — he couldn’t get in. I saw him screaming, ‘My babies are dead! My babies are dead!’."
Authorities said firefighters rescued 12 people from the building and four people were in the hospital in a critical condition.Read More
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Cable news channel NY1 also reported two of the dead were found in a bathtub.
"People were screaming, and that's how we knew there was trouble," eyewitness Kimberly Wilkins told WCBS television.
"People were screaming, 'Fire! Help! Fire! Help!"
The blaze erupted in the Belmont section of the Bronx, a primarily residential, close-knit neighborhood known as the "Little Italy" of the borough, near Fordham University and the Bronx Zoo.
De Blasio cautioned against speculation while the fire department investigated the cause of the fire at the apartment block.
He earlier said at a news conference: "This is the worst fire tragedy we have seen in this city - it will rank as one of the worst losses in a fire in many years."Read More
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He added: "Hold your families close and keep those families here in the Bronx in your prayers."
City Fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro said: "People died on various floors of the apartment, ranging in age from one to over 50."
"In a department that's certainly no stranger to tragedy, we're shocked at this loss. 12 have died and four are fighting for their lives."
He continued: "This tragedy is without question historic in its magnitude.
"Our hearts go out to every family who lost a loved one here and everyone fighting for their lives."
More than 160 firefighters responded to the four-alarm blaze, the New York City Fire Department said.