Several dead, scores injured in fire at Italian retirement home

Over 10 ambulances, various fire trucks and a silver mortuary van attended the scene in the south of the Italian city. (Photo/AFP)

A fire at a retirement home in Milan has killed six people, firefighters said, with some 80 other residents hospitalised from smoke inhalation.

The three-storey building was reportedly housing 167 people when the fire started in the early morning hours of Friday.

"It was a hellish scene," local resident Lucia, who can see the Casa per Coniugi retirement home from her house, told reporters.

"We saw old people protecting their faces with wet rags," and windows had been cracking with the heat, she said.

Over 10 ambulances, various fire trucks and a silver mortuary van attended the scene in the south of the Italian city.

"Six people killed, numerous (others) suffering from smoke inhalation hospitalised. Dozens of people saved by firefighters who immediately evacuated the building," the fire brigade said on Twitter.

The cause of the blaze was not yet known, the fire brigade said. But national firefighters spokesman Luca Cari told AFP news agency that the most credible hypothesis currently for how the fire began was a short circuit.

Deadly smoke

Some 80 people were rushed to hospital, two of whom were fighting for their lives, Milan's fire chief Nicola Micele said. Fifteen others were in a serious condition.

Five of the victims were women aged between 69 and 87 years old, while the sixth was a 73-year-old man, media reports said.

Milan Mayor Giuseppe Sala said the fire "started in one room housing two female residents", both of whom were killed by the flames.

"It did not spread, not even to the neighbouring rooms, but the smoke is just as deadly and the four other victims died of smoke inhalation".

'Complicated evacuation'

A member of staff sounded the alarm at 1:20 am (2320 GMT on Thursday) after seeing smoke, officials said.

"Four teams of firefighters were immediately dispatched. They found themselves faced with very low visibility in a corridor inside one part of the building, and flames in one room," Sala said.

"They focused on putting out the flames, then evacuating the guests. It was a particularly complicated evacuation both because of the smoke and because some of the guests were not able to walk".

Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni tweeted her "sincere condolences to the families of the victims and a speedy recovery" for those in hospital.