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Friends: 8 killed in fire musicians, artists

 The charred remains of an abandoned warehouse are seen after it burned, in the Upper Ninth Ward of New Orleans, Tuesday, Dec. 28, 2010. Authorities s...
 Firefighters work the scene of a fire in an abandoned warehouse, where officials say eight people died, in the Upper Ninth Ward of New Orleans on Tue...
 Bodies are removed from a fatal fire in an abandoned warehouse in the Upper Ninth Ward of New Orleans on Tuesday, Dec. 28, 2010. Authorities say the ...
 A man talks on his cell phone as he watches firefighters work the scene of a fire in an abandoned warehouse in the Upper Ninth Ward of New Orleans, T...
 A man, left, whom fire officials say was one of two people who escaped from a fatal fire in an abandoned warehouse, seen far left, talks to a fire of...

Fatal Warehouse Fire

The charred remains of an abandoned warehouse are seen after it burned, in the Upper Ninth Ward of New Orleans, Tuesday, Dec. 28, 2010. Authorities s...

Fatal Warehouse Fire

Firefighters work the scene of a fire in an abandoned warehouse, where officials say eight people died, in the Upper Ninth Ward of New Orleans on Tue...

APTOPIX Fatal Warehouse Fire

Bodies are removed from a fatal fire in an abandoned warehouse in the Upper Ninth Ward of New Orleans on Tuesday, Dec. 28, 2010. Authorities say the ...

APTOPIX Fatal Warehouse Fire

A man talks on his cell phone as he watches firefighters work the scene of a fire in an abandoned warehouse in the Upper Ninth Ward of New Orleans, T...

Fatal Warehouse Fire

A man, left, whom fire officials say was one of two people who escaped from a fatal fire in an abandoned warehouse, seen far left, talks to a fire of...

Eight homeless squatters who died in a fire at an abandoned warehouse where they were trying to keep warm were musicians and artists, acquaintances said.
Firefighters said they could not tell the ages or genders of those who died Tuesday in the city's deadliest blaze in decades because their bodies were so badly burned. A 23-year-old man who escaped told the American Red Cross he could not get back in to help his friends because of the smoke, agency volunteer Thomas Butler said. The group had been burning debris to keep warm, with temperatures below freezing, authorities said.
A group of young people sitting on the steps of an abandoned house near the warehouse said the dead were three women and five men.
Rachel Park, 27, estimated their ages ranged from 19 to 30. The victims never thought of themselves as homeless and rejected the "gutter punk" label used by some locals to describe transient youths, who are often seen begging for money or cigarettes on French Quarter streets, she said.
"They were all accomplished musicians or artists _ jolly, happy people," Park said.
Park knew the victims by first names only and said one or two were from the New Orleans area, while the others were from elsewhere in the U.S.
Temperatures were just below freezing, unusually cold for New Orleans. The warehouse is in a blighted city neighborhood left even more so by the flooding that followed Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
Homelessness is a problem that has worsened since Katrina. Linda Gonzales, of the New Orleans Mission, estimated as many as 3,000 people with nowhere to go may be on the streets on any given night. Shelters only have about 800 beds available, she said, though the city works with them to provide more when temperatures hover near or below freezing.
Gonzales said homeless young adults and teenagers often avoid shelters for several reasons. "Some of them choose to stay out and you can't make them come in," she said.
The blaze was reported just before 2 a.m., and fire trucks arrived within five minutes to find the building engulfed in flames, fire department spokesman Greg Davis said. Some of the victims may have been rendered unconscious by carbon monoxide, a danger with indoor fires.
All that was left of the warehouse, which sat amid graffiti-covered rail cars and ramshackle buildings, was the blackened foundation and a partial shell of singed corrugated metal.
Capt. Edwin Holmes said it was among the deadliest fires in the modern history of the New Orleans Fire Department, and the worst since 32 died in a fire at a French Quarter lounge in 1973. ___
Associated Press Writer Janet McConnaughey contributed to this report.


Updated : 2021-04-22 09:22 GMT+08:00