Jewish man whose children died in NYC fire says 'The only way to survive is complete surrender to God'

Mourners watch as Gabriel Sassoon is helped into a car after the funeral. "My children, they were so pure," he told those gathered.Reuters

An Orthodox Jewish man whose seven children died in a house fire on Saturday has said he will only get through the trauma by "complete, utter and total surrender" to God.

"My children, they were so pure," the father, Gabriel Sassoon, said at a wake attended by thousands of mourners from the local community yesterday, the New York Post reports.

"People forget what's important in life. My kids were the best, but really, every child is the best and most beautiful child in the world.

"They were a burnt offering. I lost everything in the fire. Seven pure sheep. Those are my seven children. Too many names. They are seven complete pure sheep. There's nothing else to say."

The children, aged between five and 16, were killed in a fire at their home in Brooklyn's Midwood neighbourhood early on Saturday morning. Officials have said the cause of the fire was a malfunctioning hot plate, which is used by many Orthodox Jews to keep food warm without violating the laws of the Sabbath.

The children's mother and an eighth child, who is 15 years old, survived the blaze, but are now said to be in a critical condition in hospital.

The bodies of the deceased have been flown to Israel, where the family is from, for burial in the Har HaMenuchot cemetery in Jerusalem.

"I don't know how I could have everything and now I have nothing...There's only one way to survive this: It's complete, utter and total surrender," Sassoon said. He was at a religious conference when the fire broke out. "Our wishes are tiny compared to what Hashem [God] has planned."

Fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro told reporters that it was the largest tragedy by fire that New York has seen in several years.

"It's a tragedy for this family, it's a tragedy for this community, it's a tragedy for the city," Nigro said at a press conference.

"To find a house full of children that can't be revived, I'm sure this will take its toll on our members for quite some time."