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By Talibeh Hydara

A statement from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs yesterday revealed 5 more Gambians have died, making it a total of 16 Gambian deaths in the Bronx apartment fire.

On Sunday, 8th January 2022, tragedy struck the Bronx,  a borough famous for being the birthplace of hip-hop and home to the New York Yankees.

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The deadly fire broke out in 19-storey Twin Parks North West after a space heater that had been left running burst into flames.

At least 17 people have initially died, eleven of them confirmed to be Gambians, including 6 children.

Local officials said all the victims died from inhaling smoke that poured through a single malfunctioning door and billowed to the top of the building. 

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It was New York’s deadliest fire in over three decades.

The US is home to a fledgling Gambian diaspora community with around 8,000 Gambian immigrants, according to CNN.

By Wednesday, all the initial 17 victims have been identified. Their names and ages published herewith:

Isatou Jabbie, 31

Hagi Jawara, 47

Ousmane Konteh, 2

Sera Janneh, 27

Seydou Toure, 12

Haouwa Mahamadou, 5

Haji Dukuray, 49

Haja Dukureh, 37

Mustapha Dukureh, 12

Mariam Dukureh, 11

Fatoumata Dukureh, 5

Fatoumata Drammeh, 50

Foutmala Drammeh, 21

Muhammed Drammeh, 12

Nyumaaisha Drammeh, 19

Omar Jambang, 6

Fatoumata Tunkara, 43.

The five more Gambians, haven’t been identified yet.

The tragedy sent shockwaves across The Gambia with messages of solidarity and condolences littered on social media.

The Gambia’s ambassador to the US, Dawda Fadera who reportedly travelled from Washington, DC, to New York after learning of the fire, told CNN that President Barrow personally telephoned the embassy regarding the situation.

“The president [Adama Barrow] himself had to call us here at the embassy and asked us to do whatever we can to coordinate with the local authorities and the Gambian community leaders here to bring relief to our people. The government of the Gambia is assessing and closely monitoring the situation and they are coming up with a relief package, hopefully as soon as possible,” he said.

“I think a lot of Gambians who came here, they stayed there before they moved anywhere else. This was kind of a first port of call, this building. It’s a building Gambians have a lot of attachment to,” Ambassador Fadera told CNN. “It’s so sad that this horrific and tragic incident took so many lives, and left many people fighting for their lives.”

The fire also left 44 people injured who were sent to five different borough hospitals.

“In the next few days, funeral arrangements will be made for the deceased,” Gambia’s foreign ministry said. “The New York authorities have established a centre to guide survivors in accessing all forms of assistance they need.”

Since many families would want to repatriate remains of their loved ones for fitting burial at home, the Gambia government said travel documents will be processed for those intending to attend burials here.

“The mission is ready to process travel documents for families and victims who may want to travel to The Gambia for burial,” foreign ministry added.

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