5 children, left home alone, die in East St. Louis fire, officials say

Five children all younger than 10 who were left home without an adult died in a fire early Friday at an apartment building in southwestern Illinois, officials said.

Fire crews were called to the building in East St. Louis before 3 a.m. and reported finding two children already dead inside a bedroom. The three other children were unconscious on the floor of the kitchen, officials said, and two of them were pronounced dead once they were taken outside, according to East St. Louis Assistant Fire Chief George McClellan.

The fifth child was taken to a hospital and later died. The children ranged in age from 2 to 9 years old and all belonged to the same family. Their names were not immediately released.

"The guys are taking it pretty hard," McClellan told reporters of his firefighters.

The children's mother had left the home to pick up another adult from work and returned to find the building on fire, McClellan said. She entered the building several times in an effort to rescue the children, he said.

The cause of the fire in East St. Louis, which is located across the Mississippi River from St. Louis, Missouri, is under investigation. Seven other families were displaced by the fire, officials said, but they weren't home when the fire broke out.