A devastating fire swept through a three-story brick house, killing eight children and an adult and leaving several others seriously injured in one of the city's deadliest blazes in years, authorities said.
Witnesses outside the multi-family house, a few blocks from Yankee Stadium, described seeing a woman hurling children through broken windows late Wednesday night in hopes of saving them from the raging inferno.
"All I see is just a big cloud of white dust and out of nowhere comes the first baby," said Edward Soto, who caught the child. He said he caught a second child thrown from the window moments later.
Screams of "help me, help me" were coming from the house, he said.
Fire Department spokesman Seth Andrews confirmed the death toll in the Bronx fire early Thursday. At least 10 people were injured, five of them seriously. The injured included four firefighters and another emergency worker who were hospitalized with minor injuries.
The fire burned in the home's basement and first floor. Fire investigators were on the scene Thursday trying to determine the cause.
Fatoumata Madassa, a relative of some of the residents who lives across the street, said four families lived in the building. Many were immigrants from the west African country Mali, she said. Among them were 17 children.
At least one of the families ran an import-export business, according to neighbors. A public records search lists African American Import Export at the address.
"The kids were always playing, either in the yard of their home or on the block with water guns and scooters," said neighbor David Robinson.
Hospital: Dead range from infant to woman in her 40s
Five children ranging in age from 2 to 6 were taken from the burning home to Jacobi Medical Center with smoke inhalation and burns, hospital spokesman Michael Heller said. He said three were in critical condition. One of the victims, an infant, died, he said.
Three other victims -- a woman in her 40s and boys ages 4 and 9 -- were dead when they arrived at Bronx-Lebanon Hospital Center, hospital spokesman Errol Schneer said.
The fire was reported shortly after 11 p.m. Wednesday. Firefighters had it under control about two hours later.
Neighbor Elaine Martin said she went outside when she saw the fire and saw a shoeless woman in a nightgown on the street, shivering in the blistering cold and frantically worrying about her children.
"My kids is in there, my kids is in there," Martin quoted the woman as saying.
A smell of smoke lingered around the home hours afterward. Windows of the house were broken out, and parts of the building were charred and scorched. Adding to the misery, the victims were displaced on one of the coldest nights of the year.