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New York Chinatown fire kills 2, injures at least 27

AN extension cord ignited a blaze that tore through an apartment building yesterday in New York City's Chinatown, killing two people and injuring at least 27, fire officials said.

One woman who jumped from a third-floor window to the ground was hurt, and two others apparently jumped from the roof of the burning building to the roof next door. Eight firefighters suffered minor injuries.

"We could feel the heat coming from the floorboards below," said one resident, who wouldn't give her name because she was afraid of immigration enforcement. "There was smoke everywhere. We couldn't see. ... There was a lot of screaming downstairs and commotion."

She and her two small children had to climb out a window and down a fire truck ladder to safety.

The Red Cross said 60 families - estimated at more than 200 people - from the building and two others nearby were taken to a shelter, where many fell asleep sitting up. The agency was trying to find Mandarin interpreters.

"There was a terrible burning smell," said Ping Wong, who lives next door to the burned building. "And they told us to get out. I was scared."

The fire, which started on the second floor, was difficult to control because the building was so old, like so many in the historic lower Manhattan neighborhood, Fire Department Chief of Operations Patrick McNally said. In temperatures that dropped drastically overnight, water from fire hoses froze when it hit the ground, he said.

At times, fire could be seen shooting out of the windows and smoke was billowing near the roof. By midmorning, fire officials said the blaze was under control.

A 32-year-old man was dead on arrival at New York Downtown Hospital, and a critically injured adult taken there was then moved to the burn unit at Weill Cornell Medical Center, spokeswoman Kathleen O'Keefe said. Authorities earlier said four people were seriously injured, but later yesterday details on the other injured were not available.

The building's owner had been issued a violation last month for unsafe electrical wiring, Department of Buildings spokeswoman Kate Lindquist said. The owner hadn't notified the agency about whether the violation had been corrected.

No telephone number could be found for the person listed in city records as the building's owner.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg toured the scene in the afternoon, offering condolences to displaced residents and thanking firefighters for their work.

Officials didn't immediately know whether any of the apartments in the building had been subdivided with illegal partitions, a common living arrangement in immigrant neighborhoods. Estimates of the number of people who lived in the building varied, and it was possible that some were living in illegally built rooms.

The building is on a quiet residential street near the Manhattan Bridge in the heart of Chinatown, not far from the neighborhood's main artery, Canal Street, where vendors hawk everything from knockoff handbags to live frogs and bootleg DVDs.


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