Culture
Photo by Tayfun Coskun/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Families of Gambians Lost in Bronx Fire Denied Visas To Bury Loved Ones

The nightmare of what was deemed “the worst fire in modern New York City history” hasn’t ended for Gambian family members attempting to mourn their US-bound relatives, as most have been denied entry.

Salim Drammeh, president of the Gambian Youth Organization (GYO), caught wind of the deadly Bronx, NYC fire that killed 17 on January 9th, from a friend.

“I got a notification that said there was a fire in the Bronx,” Drammeh told OkayAfrica. “But, I didn’t know it was that close. Then a friend called and asked, ‘Hey, did you hear about the fire that happened near the GYO building?’ She sent me an article and I thought, “Snap, this is the building down the block from us.”

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News Brief
Photo by ED JONES/AFP via Getty Images

"Worst Fire in Modern New York City History" Claims Gambians Amongst 19 Dead

Over 200 firefighters battled the deadly fire, Sunday morning, in New York City's 'Bronx' borough.

A fire in the Bronx, New York City has claimed 19 lives — many of whom were Muslim Immigrants from West African nation Gambia. New York City Fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro gave news of the nine children killed, and 63 people injured by "severe smoke inhalation" in a news conference on Sunday, with 32 in life-threatening conditions, sent across New York City's five boroughs. The deadly fire broke out Sunday morning because of a malfunctioning space heater.

Gambian Ambassador to the United States Sheikh Omar Faye said, "We are a small country of less than 2 million people. We are all related, everybody knows everybody. So, our country is currently in state of shock," in New York City on Sunday.

In what has been deemed New York City's deadliest fire in 30 years, the blaze broke out Sunday morning, and filled the high-rise apartment building with thick smoke. Residents trapped in their homes broke windows for air, and stuffed wet towels under doors as smoke rose from an apartment below where the fire first broke out. Survivors spoke of panic while attempting to flee by shuffling through darkened hallways and stairs, barely able to breathe. According to the Associate Press, evacuees surfaced from the smoke filled building covered in soot.

The Fire Commissioner spoke of how firefighters found victims on each apartment floor, many experiencing cardiac and respiratory arrest - some not being able to escape because of the volume of the work, he said.

Around 200 firefighters battled the five-alarm blaze, which spread because a door in the two-level second-floor unit where the blaze started was either left open or did not automatically close after residents fled, the Fire Commissioner deduced.

A GoFundMe Page has been created by a local community to aid the families of those lost to the tragic event.

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