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Sydney nursing home fire kills elderly residents

  • 11-18-2011

Three elderly people have died after a fire ripped through a nursing home in Sydney, Australian officials say.

About 50 people were injured, some seriously, in the blaze at the the Quakers Hill Nursing Home, in the north-west of the city.

Nearly 100 fire crews battled the flames and plumes of thick smoke, which engulfed the home.

Some 100 people were evacuated from the building. The cause of the fire was not immediately known.

'Worst nightmare'

The blaze started shortly before 05:00 local time on Friday (18:00 GMT Thursday), the officials say.

Firefighters say they arrived six minutes after an alarm was activated to find a fiercely burning blaze with thick acrid smoke, Australia's ABC reports.

"This has been a very, very serious fire, a tragic scene - a lot of people injured," Fire and Rescue New South Wales Commissioner Greg Mullins told reporters.

"There have been some fatalities, there may be more," he said, adding that it was a firefighter's "worst nightmare".

"Crews had to literally crawl on their hands and knees into every room in the complex, reach up under the beds, searching cupboards, anywhere where someone may have crawled away."

Police later confirmed that three residents died, but warned that the death toll may rise further.

Earlier media reports said that up to nine people died.

Nearly all the injured were suffering from smoke inhalation but some had minor burns.

TV pictures later showed a number of elderly residents lying in beds or sitting in wheelchairs just outside the building.

Police are now investigating what caused the blaze.

State officials say it was the worst nursing home fire in Sydney in decades.

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Reproduced under licence from BBC News © 2011 BBC

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