House fire kills 11 in Australia

An overnight house fire in eastern Australia has killed 11 people, including eight children, from two families, officials said today.



Three people managed to escape the fire, which broke out in the two-story home around midnight in Logan City, south of the Queensland state capital of Brisbane, police Superintendent Noel Powers said. The fire began underneath the house, but the cause was not immediately known.



Eight children and teenagers were among the dead, with the youngest victim aged three, Queensland Premier Anna Bligh said.



"I've spoken to one man this morning whose wife and five children are unaccounted for," Bligh said. "I don't think anyone could imagine the pain that that would involve."



One man who escaped was taken to a hospital for treatment of facial burns, while a second man remained at the scene despite suffering shoulder injuries. A third man did not appear to be injured, Chief Superintendent Stephen Hollands said.



Faiumu Tafeaga said his nephew Misi Matauaina escaped by jumping from a window after his partner woke him up.



Matauaina's partner and their two children, aged three and six, were unable to get out, Tafeaga said.



"There was no time to go (back) into the house. He got a few burns," Tafeaga said of his nephew.



Elma Hiddleston, who said she was an aunt and cousin of those killed, wept outside the blackened remains of the house.



"I don't believe it really happened," Hiddleston said. "I watched them grow up. Eleven people — it is just too much for me."



Investigators removed the first of the bodies from the house today. A van carrying the bodies of two children stopped briefly in the street outside the home so family members could offer a prayer. Hundreds of community members lined the road as the van drove away.



Several other bodies remained in the house today.



"While there are a number of bodies in one or two locations, the majority are dispersed throughout the house. That's what makes it particularly difficult," Powers said. "We've got to find our way through the rubble, make sure it's safe, and then locate the people as well."



Bligh said counsellors were sent to the schools the deceased children attended to help comfort their classmates.

AP

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