A man in the United States has sent harrowing tweets describing his family's desperate attempts to seek refuge after they became trapped by fire on the 26th floor of their Manhattan apartment building.

Scientist Gurinder Singh 'Mickey' Atwal said his family was unable to escape and that stairwells were full of thick smoke.

Mr Atwal, his wife and their two-year-old son sought sanctuary on the balcony as the fire rage and firefighters fought to get it under control and rescue them.

Atwal posted pictures on Twitter as he described his family's desperate situation.

Firefighters eventually reached the Atwals.

FDNY spokesman Danny Glover said one man died and another was critically injured in the blaze.

Photo: @NYCFireWire/Twitter

Atwal's Twitter account says he is English and works as a theoretical physicist and biologist at the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory.

Kelly Hommen, 22, was on the 42nd floor in the building's gym when the fire alarm went off, the MailOnline reports.

The burnt balconies of housing units that caught fire are pictured in a high-rise apartment building in New York January 5, 2014. Two people were taken to the hospital in critical condition after a fire ignited the 20th floor of the building in Midtown Manhattan. Photo: Reuters.

She ran down several flights of stairs until the smoke got too thick, then took the elevator to the ground floor.

John Lupiano said his 40th-floor apartment was completely engulfed in smoke: "The smoke just permeated so quickly and densely,' he told MailOnline. 'Black, horrible smelling thick smoke.'

Atwal's wife, Nadja, is a celebrity in Germany as a reknown fashion designer. Photo: Facebook.

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