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One dead in Manhattan high-rise fire

NBC 4 New York

A fire scorched the side of a high rise apartment building in Manhattan on Sunday.

One person died and another was critically hurt after a large fire broke out in a midtown Manhattan high-rise Sunday morning, officials say.

More than 200 firefighters worked to put out the three-alarm blaze, which began on the 20th floor of the 40-story building at 500 West 43rd St., on 10th Avenue., according to the FDNY.

Crews were able to get to the scene quickly, within 5 minutes, but it took some time for firefighters to get to the upper floors.

"In a building this size, it takes a lot of firefighters to get up to the upper floors," said FDNY Assistant Chief Sudnik. "It requires a lot of resources and it takes time."

It took firefighters about an hour and 40 minutes to get the fire under control, according to the FDNY. It is unclear what sparked the fire. The occupant of the apartment in which the blaze started said he had stepped out to get something from the store when it started.

An FDNY official said two people were found in a stairwell near the 31st floor, seriously hurt from smoke inhalation and some burns. The victims, who may have been trying to escape the fire on their own, were taken to nearby hospitals in critical condition, and the NYPD later said that one had died.

"If people would have stayed in and opened a window in their apartment and stayed near the window and waited for the fire department to come, they would have been better off," said Sudnik.

Seven other residents and some firefighters had some minor injuries.

One person who lives in an apartment 12 floors above where the fire started said there was smoke damage in his unit.

"First thing I thought it was fog," said George Galey. "Then I couldn't see the building across street. I knew it was more than fog, it was smoke."

Officials said it would be awhile before residents were allowed back in the building, primarily because the elevators were still out of service. Red Cross was on the scene assisting.