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3 dead in Australia nursing home fire

From Esprit Smith and Ben Brumfield, CNN
updated 9:30 PM EST, Thu November 17, 2011
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: At least 32 people are hospitalized
  • Three people died in fire, officials say
  • Fire strikes nursing home in western suburb of Sydney
  • Arson investigators are on the scene

(CNN) -- Fire roared through a suburban Sydney, Australia, nursing home early Friday, killing three people and injuring more than 30 others, police officials said.

"Detectives from homicide and arson are on the scene," Police Assistant Commissioner Robert Redfern said of the incident in the western suburb of Quakers Hill.

"We are treating this like we treat all fires of this nature -- as suspicious," Redfern said.

Nearly 90 people were inside the facility, which was about 20% destroyed.

Fourteen patients, five with severe burns, were in hospital intensive care units, officials said. Eighteen non-ICU patients were hospitalized.

CNN Sydney affiliate Nine News showed video footage of residents in hospital beds being cared for on sidewalks.

The fire began in two rooms, destroyed beds and traveled via the roof, said New South Wales Fire Chief Greg Mullins.

"Upon arrival, smoke was so thick you couldn't see your hand in front of your face," Mullins said.

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