A horrific fire that killed at least 12 people in the Bronx Thursday night is New York City's deadliest, excluding the 9/11 attacks, since 1990, when 87 people died in the Happy Land Social Club arson, authorities say. "Tonight in the Bronx we've seen the worst fire tragedy in at least a quarter of a century," Mayor Bill de Blasio tweeted. "It is unspeakable, and families have been torn apart." Authorities say the fire broke out on the first floor of the five-story, century-old building in the Belmont neighborhood just before 7pm and spread to every floor within minutes because of gusty winds, the AP reports.
Some 170 firefighters responded to the blaze and witnesses reported seeing residents, some without shoes, fleeing down fire escapes into the bitterly cold night. Five people died inside the 25-unit building and another seven died in area hospitals, the New York Daily News reports. At least four victims were children, including a baby around a year old, authorities say. Four other people were critically injured in the blaze. There has been no official comment on the cause of the fire, though sources tell the Daily News it may have been sparked by a space heater. The New York Times reports that city records show the building had six open violations, including one for a defective smoke detector on the floor where the fire began. (Read more New York City stories.)