34 injured in fire that destroyed New York apartment house

NEW YORK Thu Jun 5, 2014 8:32am EDT

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NEW YORK (Reuters) - A five-alarm fire broke out in a New York City apartment house early on Thursday, injuring 23 firefighters and 11 other people and reportedly leading one desperate man to drop his children from a second-story window into a neighbor's arms.

Flames destroyed the house and spread to neighboring buildings, Brian Norton, a spokesman for the New York City Fire Department, said. The cause of the fire was not yet known.

The blaze broke out at 1:05 a.m. and intensified to a rare five-alarm fire. It was still burning, although almost out, at 7:30 a.m., Norton said. More than 200 firefighters were on the scene.

Injuries suffered by 34 people, including 11 civilians and 23 firefighters, ranged from minor to serious. No further information was released.

The Staten Island Advance newspaper reported neighbors Anthony DiSimone and his fiancee, Darleen Cerzosie, heard a man screaming from a second-story window of the burning building.

"The father was stuck up there, dangling his son outside ... he couldn't do anything - black smoke was just billowing out that window," DiSimone was quoted as saying in the Advance.

"So I went underneath. He threw him right to me and I caught his son," DiSimone said, adding that the boy appeared to be about 5 years old.

The man also tossed out his daughter, believed to be about 3 years old, who was caught by Cerzosie, the newspaper said on its website. Both children appeared to be shaken up but otherwise fine, Cerzosie said.

(Reporting by Barbara Goldberg; Editing by Bill Trott)

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