By Gina Cherelus
(Reuters) - One child died and five other children were presumed dead in a fire at a three-story house in Baltimore early on Thursday where three siblings and their mother were also injured, city fire department officials said.
The fire had engulfed the one family home when firefighters arrived at about 12:30 a.m., Baltimore Fire Department spokesman Chief Roman Clark said. The third floor of the home collapsed onto the second floor shortly after. One of the bodies was recovered at about 10:30 a.m.
Firefighters had to battle the blaze from outside due to the severity of the flames and destruction. An excavator was used at the scene to remove heavy debris to search for the remaining missing children, Clark said.
"Firefighters are doing what we call "hand dig" and they are going through it by hand and small tools," Clark said. "It's a slow process, we're trying not to disturb any remains."
The search operation had to stop momentarily after it found the child's body so that the medical examiner could remove it, Clark said. The deceased child's age and gender was unknown at the time.
Clark said the mother of all nine children escaped with three of them before the collapse and the survivors were taken to a hospital in critical and serious conditions. The names of the nine children were not released but their ages range from 8 months to 11 years, Clark said.
Maryland Representative Elijah Cummings identified the mother as Katie Malone, a special assistant who had worked at the congressman's office for nearly 11 years, the Baltimore Sun reported.
The cause of the fire is unknown and is still under investigation.
(Reporting by Gina Cherelus; Editing by Bill Trott and Andrew Hay)