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At least 12 people were killed in a blaze at a Bronx apartment building on Thursday night in what New York Mayor Bill de Blasio called the city's worst fire tragedy in a quarter-century.

The dead included four children: three girls ages 1, 2 and 7, and an unidentified boy. The oldest was a 63-year-old woman.

Four other people were critically injured and fighting for their lives after the fire broke out shortly before 7 p.m. ET, on the first floor of a five-story building near the Bronx Zoo. Witnesses described seeing children without coats huddled on fire escapes as firefighters worked through icy conditions to bring the flames under control in about two hours.

"By the time I got downstairs, the fire had already escalated from one apartment to two, two to almost three. All I see is a bunch of kids on the fire escape, cold, with no jacket, no pajamas, no nothing," said Rafael Gonzalez, who lives across the street.

De Blasio called the inferno "an unspeakable tragedy," and warned that the death toll could rise.








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