updated 4/22/2007 7:11:41 AM ET 2007-04-22T11:11:41

A fast-moving fire tore through an orphanage in Bosnia’s capital early Sunday, killing five babies and injuring 17 others and a nurse, police and hospital officials said.

The blaze broke out on the third floor of the Ljubica Ivezic orphanage in downtown Sarajevo around 6 a.m. and rapidly spread to three rooms where the babies were sleeping, according to the Sarajevo fire brigade.

Three boys and two girls were killed, and 17 other babies were injured, two of them critically. A nurse trying to save the children was also injured, suffering burns to her hands and face, said Dubravko Champara of the Sarajevo prosecutor’s office.

Charred cradles, baby beds and teddy bears were scattered around the three gutted rooms, and smoke continued to drift through corridors hours after the fire.

Shocked neighbors stood in front of the orphanage as water from fire hoses gushed down the smoldering building’s walls and stairs.

“These children have such bad luck; first they are orphaned and now as babies they die in fire,” said one woman, still in her nightgown, who identified herself only as Munira.

The orphanage was evacuated and its officials declined to comment. Some children were to return later to wings of the large building that were not affected by the fire, Champara said.

Firefighters said the flames raced through the building so quickly that even though they extinguished the blaze in around 10 minutes they were not fast enough to save all of the children.

Firefighters rescued 23 children from the three rooms that were worst affected by the fire.

“All the children we hospitalized are babies,” said Biljana Jandric, a spokeswoman for Sarajevo Kosevo hospital. “One baby was dead on arrival and for the other four everything was done but we could not save them.”

Authorities do not know what caused the fire, and an investigation has begun, said police spokesman Dragan Furtula.

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