Officials said on Friday the fire started when a three-year-old boy was playing with a stove inside of a first-floor apartment.
Calling it one of the "worst fire tragedies we have seen in this city in a quarter century", de Blasio said "it will rank as one of the worst losses in a fire in many years".
At least 20 people scrambled out via fire escapes on a bitterly cold night, but others could not. When firefighters arrived on the scene, wherever they sprayed water, the ground became covered in sheets of ice, making it slippery for them to work.
Eight-month-old Amora Serenity Vidal and her grandmother, Maria Batiz, 56, have also been identified as victims in the fire.
Adrenaline flowing, he closed the door, went to the window and yanked out the heavy air conditioning unit, "which was awesome because when I was putting it in I was struggling. Everything happened so quick", Batiz said. "When he went to bring a fifth person out, the fire caught up with him".
"I opened the door and it was pitch black", Rodriguez said.
"I was calling my daughter to see where she is-accidentally she [was] upstairs at her aunt's".
Children ages 1, 2 and 7 as well as a boy whose age was not known died, along with four men and four women, according to the New York Police Department. Stewart-Francis' husband, Holt Francis, was hospitalized, the family said.
By the time firefighters had extinguished the flames a few hours later, 12 people, including five children, had been killed, and four others were "fighting for their lives" in local hospitals, New York City Fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro said Friday.
"I called some phones, no one answered", he said. Five people were declared dead in the building, one of them was a small child.
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"The first story I heard is that she was up top and she couldn't get down", said George, 19, fighting back tears.
Esther Sakyi, 50, said she was alone in her bedroom when she felt the room getting hot. She called him Thursday morning, but he was asleep and missed the call.
"I'm relieved I'm alive, but at the same time, it's like, where do I go?" "It feels so surreal". Investigators will look at whether the door to the apartment was defective or if an obstruction prevented it from closing, he said. One violation was for a broken smoke detector in an apartment on the first floor that was reported in August. Such violations are common: The city cited 7,752 of them a year ago.
The management company for the building's owner, D&E Equities, said it was talking to city officials and was "shocked and saddened" by the deaths and injuries. "But when you have this number of people pass as a result of a disaster like this, it's heartbreaking", de Vulpillieres said.
In 2007, 10 immigrants from Mali, including nine children, died after a space heater caught fire in a Bronx building.
About 170 firefighters worked in 15-degree weather to rescue dozens of people. Some escaped barefoot or in their nightclothes.
Nigro said the 3 1/2-year-old boy had a history of playing with stove burners. Fire escapes were visible on the facade of the building. The granddaughter was "terrified", he said, and they stayed at a friend's house last night.
Twum Bredu still did not know Friday what had become of his brother, Emmanuel Mensah, 28.
In addition to the reports of one apartment's faulty smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, the city received four complaints about the building, since 2004.
"That's my prayer", Bredu said.