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Mayor visits scene of fire tragedy

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has visited the scene of a fire that killed seven children in Brooklyn, describing it as an "unbelievable tragedy".

The mayor visited the house a few hours after the blaze took the lives of the children, aged five to 16. It also critically injured their mother and another child from the same Orthodox Jewish family.

Police said the children were all members of the Sassoon family. Three of the children were girls: 16-year-old Eliane, 11-year-old Rivkah and six-year-old Sara. Four were boys: 12-year-old David, 10-year-old Yeshua, eight-year-old Moshe and five-year-old Yaakob.

The mayor and his fire commissioner went through the charred residence where the children were found dead on the second floor. Afterwards, a sombre Mr de Blasio said the loss was being felt by all New Yorkers.

Fire investigators believe a warming plate in the first-floor kitchen ignited the fire shortly after midnight. They say the mother and her teenage daughter survived by jumping from the second floor.

Commissioner Daniel Nigro said the hot plate was left on for the Sabbath. Many religious Jews do not use electricity on the Sabbath but leave appliances on so they may be used.

More than 100 firefighters battled the blaze and brought it under control at around 1.30am, about an hour after it was reported.

Neighbour Nate Weber said he saw children being wheeled away on stretchers. "I just turned away. I didn't even want to look," he said.

He told the New York Daily News he heard the children's mother yelling for someone to rescue her children after she jumped from a window.

"I heard a woman yelling: 'My kids are in there. Get them out! Get them out!'" he said.

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