At least four people are dead and several others injured after a fire broke out early Tuesday morning at an electric bike repair shop in New York City.
Fire officials said the blaze broke out just after midnight on the first floor of a six-story building on Manhattan's Lower East Side, which also houses several apartment units. Authorities said two men and two women were killed, while two other women were hospitalized in critical condition. A firefighter also suffered minor injuries.
While the cause of the fire is still under investigation, piles of charred e-bikes and scooters could be seen on the sidewalk outside the building.
The lithium-ion batteries that power these devices have been blamed for a rash of fires in recent years. The New York City Fire Department says at least 200 fires and six deaths were caused by lithium batteries on electric bikes in 2022. The bikes are often used by food delivery workers to zip around the city.
Earlier this year, two children were killed in New York City from a fire that was blamed on an electric bicycle. Additionally, at least 38 people were injured in Manhattan last November, some of them critically, from a similar incident.
The New York City Fire Department posted a video to social media later Tuesday morning, encouraging New Yorkers to follow safe practices when storing or charging their lithium-ion powered mobility devices.
"Do not leave batteries charging unattended overnight when you're sleeping," the department said on Twitter. "Do not use power or extension cords to charge."
The FDNY is encouraging New Yorkers w/ lithium-ion powered mobility devices to follow practices to prevent fires and keep you safe. Do not leave batteries charging unattended or overnight when you’re sleeping. Do not use power or extension cords to charge. https://t.co/FJM6TLqOnk pic.twitter.com/EQqjvxItds
— FDNY (@FDNY) June 20, 2023
Officials who manage public housing in the city had previously proposed banning e-bikes because of incidents like these, but later backed down amid backlash from low-income residents who rely on the transportation for their livelihoods.
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