Four people have died after lithium batteries for e-bikes sparked a fire in a New York building, officials said Tuesday, sounding the alarm over the skyrocketing number of such incidents.
The fire broke out overnight in a maintenance shop for electric bicycles and scooters, on the ground floor of a building in Chinatown.
A large pile of blackened two-wheelers was seen strewn outside the charred facility on Tuesday, in a photo posted by New York Fire Department on their official Twitter account.
During a press briefing at the scene, the city's fire commissioner, Laura Kavanagh, said four people had died and two were seriously injured.
"It is very clear that this was caused by lithium ion batteries and e-bikes," she said, adding that the store had previously been cited for safety violations.
It is the 108th such fire so far this year in New York, with a total toll of 66 injured and 13 dead, including Tuesday's victims, according to the fire department.
In April, a 19-year-old woman and her seven-year-old brother were killed in a similar fire in the borough of Queens.
Fires related to e-bikes and scooters in New York have grown exponentially in recent years, from 44 in 2020 to 220 last year, as residents buy more of the electric devices -- especially for the city's highly popular meal delivery services.
Batteries are more likely to combust if they are of poor quality or older age, or if they are packed together during charging.
When they ignite, "there is so much fire created that it can often be too late as soon as the fire has begun," Kavanaugh said.