Two children are among the dead after a house fire in Toronto on Saturday morning.
A fire department spokesperson, Wendy Drummond, told Canadian broadcaster CBC that one child and an adult were confirmed dead at the scene and at least eight others were hospitalized.
Citing Fire Chief Matthew Pegg, broadcaster CP24 said at least nine people were initially reported unaccounted for, but this was lowered to one person and two children.
The two-storey house in the Toronto neighbourhood of Parkdale was fully engulfed by noon and crews had to dig through debris to reach people.
Erwin Thompson, a resident of the upper floor of the duplex, said “the wall collapsed when I was standing outside.” He told CP24 that he had made his way to the building’s basement, where he saw a plume of black smoke.
Ibrahim Mohieldin said he saw the smoke from a next-door grocery store.
Toronto police superintendent Tanya Bruckmueller told reporters that the fire was “intentionally set” and that there was a gang angle. Police spokesman John Livey said that no suspects have been arrested.
John Wates, 57, has lived across the street from the house for 30 years and said he was not shocked by the incident.
“You know there’s a lot of crack involved in that neighbourhood,” he said. “But I’m still surprised it’s a house. This shouldn’t be a house. That fire was quite big.”
An elderly woman who lives just down the street told CBC that she heard loud noises and ran outside when she saw smoke but was not able to get through the thick smoke.
“You could smell it and you could see the fire. And it was very, very fast,” she said.