Baby survives four-storey drop as nine die in flat fire

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A desperate father spectacularly saved the life of his baby yesterday after he dropped the infant from the third floor of a burning building into the hands of a fireman.

But nine people including five children and a pregnant women were killed when a blaze scorched a block of flats in the southern German city of Ludwigshafen. It was not known last night whether the baby's parents were among the dead.

As flames engulfed the house, a group of adults could be seen at the window with a baby. On street level, rescue workers and firemen had gathered, their arms outstretched. Last night, the baby was said to be in a stable condition.

The incident occurred after the century-old block was used by revellers looking on at a carnival popular in Catholic areas of Germany which passed by in the street below. The heat of the fire was said to be so intense that a stairwell within the building collapsed. "It was just a pile of ashes," the local fire brigade chief, Peter Friedrich, said. "People were escaping through windows before we arrived at the scene."

Eva Lohse, the Ludwigshafen mayor, tearfully said: "The terrible images of children being brought out of the flames will remain with us for a long time. We are deeply shocked."

A witness, Rene Werse, said: "By the time the fire brigade arrived ... flames were licking the house and people began to jump."