, MELBOURNE, Aug 16 – Five people, including four young children, died in a house fire in southern Australia early on Sunday, police said.
Media reports said the dead were a mother and her four children, although police said no bodies had been formally identified.
They said the blaze broke out at Clifton Hill, just outside Melbourne, in the early hours and completely gutted the house, as well as severely damaging a neighbouring property.
Police said the cause of the fire was not known, with arson squad detectives and disaster victim identification experts working at the scene throughout Sunday.
A 31-year-old man managed to escape the blaze and underwent surgery after suffering burns, abrasions and smoke inhalation, police said.
Neighbour Alfred Terrill said he awoke in the middle of the night to hear a woman who had been passing by the property screaming and trying to rouse the occupants.
But he said the house was already engulfed by flames.
"It was a wall of flame from one end to the other," Terrill told national news agency AAP.
"I couldn’t even see the house for the flames, just a red wall of fire."