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Pope Francis sends condolence message to victims of Bronx fire

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Pope Francis sends condolence message to victims of Bronx fire
New York firefighters and police officers work at  the 19-story building Monday where a fire the day before killed 19 people, including nine children.  Photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo

Jan. 10 (UPI) -- Pope Francis sent a telegram to Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the Archibishop of New York, with condolences for the Bronx apartment fire that killed at least 17 people.

"His Holiness Pope Francis was saddened to learn of the recent devastating fire in the Bronx in which a number of children lost their lives," wrote Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican Secretary of State.

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"In offering heartfelt condolences and the assurance of his spiritual closeness to those affected by this tragedy, he entrusts the victims and their families to the merciful love of almighty God and invokes upon all consolation and strengths in the Lord."

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The telegram was shared by Dolan, who visited the scene of the fire Monday, in a message posted to Twitter.

"Here is a heartfelt message from Pope Francis on yesterday's terrible fire in the Bronx. I am sure all join me in thanking the Holy Father, as we join with him in prayer for all those affected by this horrific tragedy," the archbishop said.

In another post, Dolan shared images of himself meeting with the fire companies who battled Sunday's five-alarm fire.

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"It doesn't get worse than what we witnessed in New York yesterday at that tragic fire in the Bronx," he tweeted.

Fire Commissioner Dan Nigro said during a press conference Monday that the city had also revised its tally of fatalities from 19 to 17, including eight children, after realizing two of the victims had been counted twice.

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Thirteen people remained in critical condition in seven different hospitals.

"There was a bit of a double count, which I guess is a bit of good news," Nigro said. "But don't forget there are many people fighting for their lives in the hospital so this number could, unfortunately, increase again."

Nigro, who confirmed that a faulty space heater was the cause of the fire in the high-rise, said the people inside fled the third-floor apartment without closing the fireproof door behind them, allowing smoke to spread.

"Smoke spread throughout the building, thus the tremendous loss of life and other people fighting for their lives," Nigro said at a news conference, adding that many were harmed from severe smoke inhalation.

Mayor Eric Adams indicated the door should've closed automatically.

Officials said it was the worst fire in 30 years and one of the largest death tolls from a blaze in the city's history. Many of the victims were Muslim immigrants from the West African nation of Gambia.

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Nigro said the loss of life can be traumatizing for firefighters responding to such a large blaze.

"We're all about saving lives, and the loss of one life is sad for us, much less 19 lives," he said. "On buildings like this, there are no fire escapes, there are interior stairways. So the residents should know where the stairwells are. I think some of them could not escape because of the volume of smoke."

The building was purchased in 2020 for more than $24.6 million by a group of investors including Camber Property Group, the New York Daily News reported.

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