Three children have died in a house fire in Salford, while a three-year-old is said to be in a critical condition. A 14-year-old girl, named locally as Demi Pearson, was declared dead at the scene, while an eight-year-old boy and a girl aged seven died in hospital.
Their mother, named as Michelle Pearson, 35, is in a serious condition.
Four people have been arrested on suspicion of murder over the fire, which broke out at the house in Jackson Street, Walkden, at about 05:00 GMT.
Ms Pearson has been heavily sedated and has not yet been told that her children are dead, a Greater Manchester Police (GMP) spokesperson said.
Three men, aged 18, 20 and 23, and a 20-year-old woman have been arrested on suspicion of murder and remain in custody for questioning.
A 24-year-old man has also been arrested on suspicion of assisting an offender.
‘Bang and fireballs’
GMP confirmed it had had very recent contact with the family and had visited the house in the hours before the blaze.
The case has been referred to the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC).
Ch Supt Wayne Miller said what had happened was “the murder, using fire, of three children and we have a three-year-old girl fighting for her life”.
He said officers were “keeping an open mind” over whether the tragedy was related to organised crime.
Appealing for any information “no matter how small”, he added the deaths would “devastate this family forever”.
Neighbour Susan Smith said she heard “people screaming and shouting and then I opened the bathroom window and it was just like if you can imagine an orange cloud and a bang and fireballs coming from the house”.
She said paramedics were “pulling up outside our house and they were carrying the children to the ambulances”.
The four children, their mother and one other person were taken to hospital.
Two boys, aged 16, who were also in the house, were described as “walking wounded”.
It is understood one of the boys is a family member, while the other is not related.
Greater Manchester Fire Service said crews rescued five people when they arrived on the scene, while two people had already got out of the house.
Jackson Street between Algernon Road and Alexandra Road remains closed.