The death toll from the weekend apartment fire in New York City was revised downward to 17 Monday while officials warned that it could still rise.
At a press conference Monday, New York City Mayor Eric Adams said the city’s medical examiner had modified the initial count of 19 deaths to 17 — nine adults and eight children.
“This is an unspeakable tragedy,” Adams said, calling the situation “an evolving crisis” and suggesting that the numbers could change. More than a dozen people were listed in critical condition as a result of the blaze, which broke out early Sunday at a 19-story residential building in the Bronx.
Adams said he and New York City Schools Chancellor David Banks met privately with grieving principals and teachers at area schools to offer their support.
“Not only has this fire left a burning pain in the hearts of this community, it has left a burning pain in the children and the teachers and the faculty of these schools,” Adams said. “All of them realize they are going through a traumatic moment, and we want to be here for them.”
The mayor said he received a call from President Biden, who offered his administration's full support.
“He has made it clear that whatever we need, the White House is going to be there for us,” Adams said.
Fire officials believe that the fire was caused by a malfunctioning electric space heater in one of the building’s 120 units, and that smoke went through the apartment’s open door and into stairwells, making it almost impossible for some victims to escape.
Adams said investigators are working to determine whether there was a maintenance issue with the door, which was supposed to automatically close to contain the smoke.
Sunday’s fire was New York City's deadliest since 1990, when 87 people died in a fire at a social club in the Bronx.
The borough was also the site of a deadly apartment building fire in 2017 that killed 13 people and a 2007 fire, also started by a space heater, that killed nine.
"We’re going to get through this moment,” Adams said. “And we’re going to get through it together.”