The Gambia’s ambassador to the US Dawda Fadera has said the country is “in a state of shock” over a tragic apartment fire in New York. 

At least 17 people including Gambians were killed on Sunday morning after a fire broke out in a Bronx apartment, officials said.

Ambassador Fadera, appearing at a press conference alongside New York Mayor Eric Adams, said: “I have come from Washington DC to learn more from you about this tragic incident that took so many lives and left many more struggling for their lives. 

“This is very unfortunate and I think the majority of the victims apparently have their roots from The Gambia.

“We are a very small country of about two million people and we are all related. Everyone knows everyone. Our country is in a state of shock.”

Ambassador Fadera said he spoke to President Adama Barrow about the tragedy and that president extended his condolences to the bereaved families. 

“This is shocking and our thoughts and prayers are with the bereaved families.”

For his part, Mayor Eric Adam’s said: “This is a horrific, horrific, painful moment for the city of New York, and the impact of this fire is going to really bring a level of just pain and despair in our city.”

A “malfunctioning electric space heater” was the source of the fire, Daniel Nigro, commissioner of the New York City Fire Department, said earlier Sunday. 

The heater was in the bedroom of an apartment, and the fire consumed the room and then the entire apartment, he said.

The apartment door was left open and smoke spread throughout the building when the residents left their unit, Nigro said.

About 200 members of the New York City Fire Department responded to the fire at the 19-story building at 333 East 181st Street. 

The fire began a little before 11 a.m. in a duplex apartment on the 2nd and 3rd floors of the building, the FDNY said.

Victims were found in stairways on every floor of the building, many in cardiac arrest, in what Nigro said could be an unprecedented loss of life. The injuries were predominantly from smoke inhalation, he said.

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