Seventeen people died when an unlicenced home for elderly people outside the Ukrainian capital Kiev caught fire this morning, a fresh tragedy to shake the conflict-riven country.
The fire tore through the two-storey building for the elderly in the village of Litochky, located some 50 kilometres north of Kiev.
"The bodies of 17 people have been found at the site of the fire," the head of Ukraine's state emergencies service, Mykola Chechotkin, told reporters.
"The fire broke out at a privately-owned house," he said, adding the residence did not meet existing regulatory requirements.
More than a dozen body bags were laid out close to the fence of a fire-gutted white brick building before they were loaded onto a truck, an AFP photographer reported from the scene.
National television said police had cordoned off the area.
Citing preliminary information, emergency service said that 35 people were at the home when the fire broke out in the early hours of today.
Eighteen people have been rescued and five of them have been hospitalised, said the service, adding the fire, tackled by more than 150 people, had been extinguished by this morning.
A privately-held television channel said the locals had waited some 40 minutes for the firefighters to arrive and had tried unsuccessfully to rescue the people themselves.
One witness, Vasyl, said a residence employee had rescued one person and returned to help get more people out when a wooden structure crashed down upon her.
Locals said the private residence had been built several years ago.
"My heart aches," Tamara, whose relative lived at the shelter, said in televised remarks.
"If you want to know, everything was good there: things were clean, tidy, orderly, she had been looked after, there are no complaints."
It was not immediately clear what caused the blaze but according to one version it might have been sparked by an exploding TV set.
Both President Petro Poroshenko and Prime Minister Volodymyr Groysman expressed condolences to the families of the victims, with the premier also ordering the creation of a special investigative commission.
First deputy head of national police, Vadym Troyan, said a man behind the use of the building as a home for the elderly had already been detained.
In post-Soviet countries such as Ukraine and Russia outdated infrastructure is still in widespread use amid an often lax approach to fire safety.