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New York-based Indian Journalist Fazil Khan Dies in Deadly Apartment Fire in Harlem Caused by Lithium-ion Battery

New York-based Indian Journalist Fazil Khan Dies in Deadly Apartment Fire in Harlem Caused by Lithium-ion Battery

  • The 27-year-old graduate from Columbia University’s journalism school worked as a data reporter at the nonprofit newsroom The Hechinger Report.

An Indian journalist was killed this Friday (Feb. 23) in a deadly apartment fire in New York. Fazil Khan, 27, died during the blaze on St. Nicholas Place in Harlem caused by a lithium-ion battery. Eighteen others were injured in the fire, the New York Post said, and added that firefighters were seen “dramatically rescuing residents desperately dangling from a window.”

The Consulate General of India in New York identified Khan, and said they were in touch with his friends and family, reports in Indian media said. “Saddened to learn about the death of 27-year-old Indian national Mr Fazil Khan in an unfortunate fire incident in an apartment building in Harlem, NY. India in New York is in touch with the late Mr Fazil Khan’s family and friends. We continue to extend all possible assistance in reparation of his mortal remains to India.”

Citing fire officials, the Post reported that”the deadly blaze was sparked by a lithium ion battery in the six-story building,” on Feb. 23 afternoon, which “quickly overtook the hallways, blocking residents of higher floors from reaching the stairwell.” Khan was among five victims who were rushed to the hospital “in critical condition,” the Post said, adding that the young man was pronounced dead at the hospital.

Lithium-ion batteries have caused 267 fires, 150 injuries, and 18 deaths in the city in 2023, the Post said, citing data from the New York City Fire Department. So far,  there have been 24 lithium-ion battery fire investigations this year, the data said. 

Khan was an alumnus of the Columbia University’s School of Journalism, and was working as a data journalist with The Hechinger Report. The nonprofit newsroom reporting on inequality and innovation in education is based at the university’s Teachers College. As a data reporter, he was “responsible for gathering and analyzing education data and collaborating with other reporters to expose inequality and examine innovation in education,” said is profile on The Hechinger Report website.

He graduated from Columbia in 2021 with a M.S. Data Journalism, where he was also chosen as a post-graduate fellow for the school’s Global Migration Project. He started his career as a copyeditor at one of India’s leading business dailies in 2018 and had been working as a correspondent at CNN-News18 in Delhi, India, before moving to New York in 2020.

Several journalists took to X to mourn his tragic death and remember him. Javeria Salman, his colleague at The Hechinger Report, called Khan “truly one of the kindest people, and so brilliant.” She also posted a photo with Khan and other colleagues on an outing. 

Vinay Sarawagi, senior vice president at Times Digital described Khan “a young journalist whose passion for impactful work and  dedication touched the lives of all who had the privilege to know him.” His “journey from humble beginnings to becoming a shining beacon of sincerity and hard work serves as an inspiration to us all,” he added. “His innocence and purity of spirit brought light into the lives of those around him, and his loss leaves a void that cannot be filled.”

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Ravi Prakash Kumar, who worked with Khan at Business Standard wrote that his death is “a tremendous loss for the journalism community.”

Another journalist who had “a brief but very enriching opportunity to closely work” with Khan, wrote that she remains “baffled” with many questions since she heard of the fire. “Why him? Why couldn’t he survive as others? He’d so much more to achieve. World has lost a gem.”

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