Many of the victims in the Bronx high-rise fire where at least 19 people, including nine children, died on Sunday, Jan. 9, were African immigrants. The New York Times reports that they chose their apartments because the building was near a mosque in an area with a large Muslim population. Members of that close-knit community are helping the survivors in their time of need.
New York City Mayor Eric Adams said the city would support the families regardless of their immigration status and would respect their cultural needs, according to the Times.
One focus is ensuring the families are able to properly bury their loved ones in compliance with Muslim tradition, CBS News New York reported. Sheikh Musa Drammeh was brought in to assist the city to coordinate burial services. One of the traditions, based on the interpretation of Islamic law, is that a person must be buried as soon as possible after death.
“We want these families to get the help they need. These are people that lost everything … everything. We literally called, from our pantry list, we called a family and we had a mother stating that she lost two of her children, so we also need money to help with the burial,” said Salim Drammeh, listed as the organizer of the GoFundMe campaign, according to CBS New York.
While most of the victims were Gambian immigrants, some others came from other African countries.
Hassane Badr, a 28-year-old Mali immigrant, told the Times he had 11 family members who lived in a three-bedroom apartment in the building. He lost two siblings in the blaze and a cousin was missing. They lived in the building for at least six years. They wanted to live in the community because mosques were nearby and there is a large African immigrant presence in the neighborhood.
“I’m thinking like I’m dreaming, this is not true. You hear people crying, my goodness. To be honest, I’m not believing it right now,” he told the newspaper.
Ahouss Balima, 20, is a Burkina Faso immigrant who lived on the ninth floor with his parents and three younger sisters. He told the Times that the building’s residents were close with each other. “We meet up all the time, apartment to apartment,” he said. “We all know each other.”
The investigation into the five-alarm fire, one of the most deadly in New York City history, is ongoing. Daniel A. Nigro, the city’s fire commissioner, said firefighters found victims on nearly every floor of the 19-story high-rise, according to the Times. At this point, investigators believe a faulty electric space heater in a bedroom started the blaze. Some victims died from smoke inhalation.
“This was heartbreaking! I will pray for all those affected by this fire !” a donor on the GoFundMe campaign page wrote.
You can help those affected by the tragic fire by clicking on the links below:
The City of New York has set up a fundraising page for victims and their families.
The Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City is accepting donations.
Reality television star Bethenny Frankel’s charity bstrong has started a funding drive to help the affected.