One child has died and five more are presumed dead after a house fire broke out at a Baltimore residence early Thursday morning, officials say.
A woman and three children were able to escape the fire and have been hospitalized. The woman and two of the children who were rescued are in critical condition while another was in good condition, Fire Department spokesman Chief Roman Clark told ABC News.
Clark said that one body was recovered, but the collapse of the second and third stories of the building make the search difficult for firefighters.
The ages of the nine missing and hospitalized children range from 8 months to 11 years, he said.
Although authorities did not identify the woman, William Malone told The Associated Press that all nine children belonged to him and his wife, congressional staffer Katie Malone. The father said he was at work at a restaurant when the tragedy occurred.
“I’m still in shock to be honest,” he told the outlet.
Maryland Rep. Elijah Cummings also said the fire involved Katie Malone, one of his staff members.
“I am asking that our entire community pray for my staff member, Katie Malone, and her young family. Katie has worked as a Special Assistant in my Catonsville office for nearly 11 years where she dutifully serves my constituents in the areas of immigration, postal services, and the military, including Service Academy nominations,” Cummings said in a statement. “My staff is a family and this unimaginable tragedy is shocking and heartbreaking to us all.”
Clark told WBAL-TV 11 Baltimore early Thursday morning that crews were waiting for construction equipment to arrive to clear the debris and search for six children who are unaccounted for and may still be inside.
“At this time, we have had a collapse of the unit itself — the third floor and second floor have collapsed,” Clark said. “So currently, right now, it’s very difficult for firefighters to even get inside to do a secondary search to see if there is anyone else inside the dwelling.”
The cause of the fire is unknown and will be investigated.
The Baltimore Fire Department was not immediately available for further comment.
Baltimore police spokesman T.J. Smith expressed his sadness over the event on Twitter.
“Hug your kids. Hug them hard and hug them long,” he said. “This fire is just an unspeakable tragedy. Puts little crap in perspective.”