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Residents Left Without Elevators After High-Rise Fire

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Things are slowly getting back to normal at a Lower East Side high-rise after a fire that gutted an apartment and sent dozens of people to the hospital, including several firefighters.

The flames broke out in a third-floor apartment in a 26-story building - 460 Grand Street. The fire quickly rose to three alarms.

Fire officials say 45 people, including 30 firefighters were taken to the hospital. Two people suffered critical injuries. Officials say while most of the building wasn't damaged, the apartment where the fire broke out was completely destroyed.

"I'm about to break down right now," said Justin Davila, a cousin of one of the fire victims. "We went crazy. Then to just have him sitting there at the side of the building and watching all his property get thrown out of the window on fire — it's unbelievable."

Residents, who described a chaotic scene, say the thick smoke made it nearly impossible to breathe.

"The smoke detector and the carbon monoxide alarm started going off. I called the Fire Department maybe 15 minutes later because we couldn't really breathe," said building resident Naomi Pena. "It was really that thick. And they came and got us."

"It was very scary. I was concerned because my children were home and for the people that got very sick," added a resident, chocking back tears.

"When were going down the stairs, the firemen were trying to come up and everything was completely black," added building resident Venus Morales. "It was hard to breathe. And when we came outside we saw that the flames were coming out of the apartment."

Firefighters were able to bring the fire under control in about two hours, but residents faced a new set of issues this morning when they awoke to find all three elevators out of service and the bottom of the stairwells flooded.

"A lot of the tenants here are disabled. We've got a lot of young kids here," said Tenants Association vice president Eric Nagy. "A lot of people here have to depend on these elevators. We've got senior citizens that need to get down the elevators. We've got a fire that just caused all the elevators to be out, standpipes are leaking and nothing's been done about it."

"At least one or two elevators should be working. Three elevators are out — at least one could be working," said building resident James Strothers, who said he had to walk down 20 floors. "Just about everybody in this body has to go to work."

Maintenance crews eventually turned up to remove the water from the stairwells, but resident Eliza Thomas couldn't get upstairs. She has to wait until the elevators are back in service.

"I can go into my apartment if I can get up there, but I can't get up there. I can't go from the first floor to the fourth. So I'm just waiting. I'm patient," she said.

The fire also affected a nursery school located on the side of the building. Teachers say there was minor damage inside, so they took the kids to a nearby building for the day.

Investigators are looking into what caused the fire.
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