At least 21 dead in Poland hostel fire


At least 21 people have been killed in a fire in a hostel for homeless families in northwest Poland, a fire official said today.

A further 20 people were hurt, most after jumping out of windows to escape the overnight blaze. Firemen were searching for more victims, fire department spokesman Pawel Fratczak said.

Some 77 people were registered at the hostel in Kamieniec Pomorski but the exact number there at the time was not certain.

"Some of the survivors were just visitors," Mr Fratczak said. "It will take couple of hours to search the entire site."

Huge flames shot from the three-storey building's windows and high into the sky during the blaze.

Survivors said they had to jump out of windows to escape.

"There were ladders, but they reached only to the first floor," witness Dariusz Janyszko told state television TVP.

"I yelled to my sister on the second floor 'Jump, I will catch you' but she didn't. Then it was too late."

Survivors said this was not the first fire in the hostel.

Prime minister Donald Tusk visited the scene on Monday and promised government help for survivors and victims' families. President Lech Kaczynski declared three days of national mourning.