Updated at 3 p.m. ET
A fire that swept through a home in New York’s Brooklyn borough overnight just after midnight has killed seven children and left the mother of at least three of the victims in critical condition, fire officials say.
The dead children range in age from 5 to 15 and they are believed to be siblings, New York Fire Department spokesman Jim Long says.
“Two of the children weren’t breathing when they brought them out. The firefighters were running with them down the street on stretchers,” a volunteer at the scene was quoted by The New York Post as saying.
“The mother was covered in soot. It’s horrible inside,” the volunteer said.
According to The Associated Press: “Firefighters received a call at 12:23 a.m. about the blaze at a single-family home in Midwood, a leafy section of Brooklyn known for its low crime and large Orthodox Jewish population. Long said more than 100 firefighters responded and brought the blaze under control at around 1:30 a.m.”
At a news conference early Saturday, Fire Commissioner Daniel A. Nigro said a hot plate left on a counter on the first floor malfunctioned, triggering the blaze.
Later, authorities said the appliance was apparently left on in the Orthodox Jewish household for the Sabbath. Many Orthodox Jews who strictly observe the Sabbath refrain from turning on or off electrical devices during weekly observance.
“The mother jumped out a front window, a daughter, 15, went out a side window. They both suffered burns and smoke inhalation. The other seven children, ages 5 to 15, died.
” ‘This is the largest tragedy by fire that this city has had in seven years,’ Mr. Nigro said. ‘It’s a tragedy for this family, it’s a tragedy for this community, it’s a tragedy for the city.’ ”
An FDNY spokesman said a total of 25 fire engines and other units were dispatched to the scene.