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Tragic incident 'Keep these babies in your prayers' - seven children among dead in Philadelphia fire

The four smoke alarms in the building, which was public housing, do not appear to have been working, fire officials said

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At least 13 people have been killed and several more injured after a fire broke out in an apartment building in Philadelphia

At least 13 people have been killed and several more injured after a fire broke out in an apartment building in Philadelphia

At least 13 people have been killed and several more injured after a fire broke out in an apartment building in Philadelphia

Fire tore through a duplex home early yesterday in Philadelphia, killing 13 people, including seven children, fire officials said.

At least two people were sent to hospitals, and officials warned the toll could grow as firefighters searched the apartment building, where 26 people had been staying.

The four smoke alarms in the building, which was public housing, do not appear to have been working, fire officials said.

The blaze's cause was not determined, but officials shaken by the death toll - apparently the highest in a single fire in the city in at least a century - vowed to get to the bottom of it.

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People react near the scene

People react near the scene

People react near the scene

 

"I knew some of those kids - I used to see them playing on the corner," said Dannie McGuire (34) fighting back tears as she and Martin Burgert (35) stood in the doorway of a home around the corner.

"I can't picture how more people couldn't get out - jumping out a window," she said.

Officials did not release the names or ages of those killed in the blaze, which started before 6:30am in a residential area of the city's Fairmount neighborhood, northwest of downtown and home to the Philadelphia Museum of Art and its famous "Rocky steps".

Relatives and friends of the home's residents gathered at a nearby school to wait for news, some wrapped in Salvation Army blankets.

Friends of the children stopped by, hoping for information, after their texts and calls went unanswered.

"It was terrible. I've been around for 35 years now and this is probably one of the worst fires I have ever been to," said Craig Murphy, first deputy fire commissioner, at a news conference.

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"Losing so many kids is just devastating," said Mayor Jim Kenney. "Keep these babies in your prayers."

First Lady Jill Biden, who along with US President Joe Biden has deep ties to the Philadelphia area, tweeted: "My heart is with the families and loved ones of the victims of the tragic fire in Philadelphia."

Crews responded around 6.40am and saw flames shooting from the second-floor front windows.

The odd configuration of the building - a single-family home that had been split into two apartments - made it difficult to navigate.

Crews brought the fire under control in less than an hour.

There were 18 people in the upstairs apartment on the second and third floors, and eight staying in the downstairs apartment, which included the first floor and part of the second floor, Mr Murphy said.

He noted 26 was a large number of people to be occupying a duplex, but a spokesperson for Philadelphia's Department of Licenses and Inspections said the city does not limit the number of family members who can stay in a single unit.

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