STARKVILLE, Miss. (AP) - Nine people, including at least six children, died early Monday in an apartment fire, officials said.
The blaze was reported around 4 a.m., according to Oktibbeha (ACH-tibb-bee-ha) County Coroner Michael Hunt. He and state Fire Marshal Mike Chaney confirmed the deaths.
Firefighters were still at the scene more than six hours later, and there was no word on how the blaze started.
"All I can tell you is we had a fire in one of the older apartment buildings," Starkville Fire Chief Rodger Mann said. "That's about all I can say. When a fatality is involved, things move a lot slower."
He did not identify any of the victims.
Sharon Dent, who was at the scene, told The Commercial Dispatch she feared three children she occasionally watched were among the dead.
"Those kids were so sweet," Dent said. "I loved those kids. It's extremely hard for me right now."
Firefighters let other people back into their apartments about 9:30 a.m.
The apartment that burned is in a large complex of six two-story buildings, each divided into eight apartments. The heaviest damage was to three apartments on the second floor of one of the buildings, though all of those who died were in one apartment, Mann said.
The complex is not far from Mississippi State University, the state's largest with 18,500 students and 1,000 faculty members. Starkville, which has about 24,000 full-time residents, is about 115 miles from Jackson, Birmingham, Ala., and Memphis, Tenn.
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