Fatal Sydney fire: Nurse charged with murder

Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard expressed her sorrow at the "truly horrifying" blaze

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A nurse has been charged with murder following Friday's fire at a Sydney nursing home that killed five elderly residents, Australian police say.

Roger Dean, 35, appeared via video link at Parramatta court, from local cells, but said nothing and was remanded into custody until next week.

More than 30 people injured in the fire at the Quakers Hill Nursing Home remain in hospital, some in intensive care.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard called it "a very dark day".

"To imagine the frail, elderly people caught up in a fire like that, at risk of being engulfed by flames, is truly horrifying," she said.

"My condolences go to the families who have lost loved ones and to those whose loved ones are now in hospital and who are with them and awaiting news of their condition."

Officials say it was the worst nursing home fire in Sydney in decades.

New South Wales police said Mr Dean was arrested soon after the blaze, following a thorough investigation at the scene.

"All I can say is that last night detectives were speaking to the man at Mount Druitt Police Station, where they formed the opinion that they had sufficient evidence to place him under arrest," said Superintendent Michael Willing, who is leading the case.

It has been reported that police suspect the fire broke out in two separate wings of the facility.

Mr Dean was held on Friday and charged with four counts of murder. The fifth victim died later.

'Worst nightmare'

During the fire, hundreds of fire fighters battled the flames and plumes of thick smoke, which engulfed the home. About 100 elderly residents were later evacuated from the building.

"This has been a very, very serious fire, a tragic scene - a lot of people injured," Fire and Rescue New South Wales Commissioner Greg Mullins told reporters.

He described the blaze as a firefighter's "worst nightmare".

"Crews had to literally crawl on their hands and knees into every room in the complex, reach up under the beds, searching cupboards, anywhere where someone may have crawled away."

TV pictures later showed a number of elderly residents lying in beds or sitting in wheelchairs just outside the building.

Three people were pronounced dead at the scene, while another died in hospital overnight and a fifth died on Saturday.

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