Seven members of the same family are feared dead following a huge blaze at a farmhouse in Wales.
Single father David Cuthbertson, 68, and four of his children are believed to have been killed while they were sleeping, when a fire ripped through the family home in rural Llangammarch Wells, Powys, in the early hours of Monday (30 October) morning.
Three children, aged 13, 12, and ten, managed to escape the blaze unharmed. One of the children raised the alarm after running to safety, but other members of the family still remain unaccounted for.
The fire caused the roof of the property to cave in as the blaze tore through the building, leaving the interior completely gutted.
The Welsh Ambulance Service sent its Hazardous Area Response Team, as well as four crews in emergency ambulances.
The Brecon Mountain Rescue team was also sent to the blaze because it was in such a remote location. Police said that the £250k house was at least a mile away from the main road, which delayed the arrival of emergency services at the scene. By the time fire services reached the property, the fire was "well-developed."
Speaking at a press conference this afternoon, Chief Superintendent Richard Lewis said the devastation caused by the inferno was so severe that bodies could not be identified at the scene.
"Just after midnight this morning Dyfed Powys Police were notified by Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service that there was a house fire at a remote property at Llangammarch Wells, Powys," he explained.
"Upon arrival the house was ablaze and three children aged 13, 12 and 10 years were able to escape. They are being treated in hospital but do not have life threatening injuries. However, there are a number of people unaccounted for at this time and we can confirm that there are known to be fatalities."
"They had lots of kids and seemed like a big happy family."
With some of the older children living away from home, police have been speaking to relatives in order to establish who was in the house at the time of the fire. "Due to the severity of damage at the scene we are unable at this stage to identify any of the deceased or confirm numbers," he said.
A former builder, Mr Cuthbertson was forced into early retirement eight years ago, after a fall from a ladder left him with a serious back injury and unable to work. After his wife Judy suffered a stroke, she moved out of the family home and re-marrried and is now living in Greece, leaving the father-of- seven to take care of the children.
Local residents spoke fondly of Mr Cuthbertson and said the quiet village has been left "shocked" by the tragedy. Neighbours Ron, 73, and Rosemary Birchall, 68, said they knew the father well.
"My wife always talked to Dave so she is absolutely devastated. I knew him as a good father and a gentle fella. My wife would say he was an exceptional father. All the other villagers are upset by this because Dave has been in the village for about 15 years."
Mrs Birchall said that the neighbours were used to seeing the children coming and going in the local area.
"He was a single father with seven children. They were wonderful. The kids were well presented and they used to pass us everyday. It really is very sad. Rosemary said it's the worst day of her life."
Another neighbour, who wished to remain anonymous, told Mail Online the local community has been devastated by the tragedy. He said: "I'm in shock, the whole village is in shock. We heard about the fire but didn't know there were children involved till later on in the afternoon, we were in disbelief. It's hit my daughter hard because she has young children and it's such tragic news."
Specialist scientists and fire investigators are still assessing the scene prior to further investigation. as firemen, police and forensic scientists were searching through the gutted remains of the farmhouse looking for bodies.
One neighbour said: "All I know is they had lots of kids and seemed like a big happy family. It is possible that one or two weren't there because of the school holidays. But if all eight children were at home it's too dreadful to think about."
Commenting on the tragedy community councillor Jon Hather said: "It's a dreadful shock for this small community and our thoughts go out to the family."
He added that the emergency services "did everything they could" to try to rescue the people trapped in the burning house. "I've had a full description from the fire commander and they risked life and limb to see whether anything could be done but unfortunately their efforts were not well rewarded.
"Speaking on behalf of the community our thoughts and prayers will all those affected. The community will come together and do all it can for the surviving children and relations."