(Reuters) - Nine people from one family have died in a house fire on a remote aboriginal reserve in Canada’s northern Ontario region, according to media reports on Wednesday.
Three children and six adults died in the fire that started late on Tuesday at Pikangikum First Nation, according to Canadian Press and aboriginal news agency APTN. The reserve has been in the news for a high number of suicides among young people and social problems.
“We are in a very devastated mode in the community and we are in real need of prayers,” Pikangikum Chief Dean Owen told APTN. “The community right now is in a state of shock and everything is just kind of at a standstill.”
Owen did not immediately reply to a Reuters call for comment.
Ontario Provincial Police Constable Diana Cole told Reuters in a telephone interview that police could only confirm that people had died or were missing, but not the numbers. The cause of the fire has not been determined.
Canada’s aboriginal people face dire social and economic conditions, including poor housing. Pikangikum is northwest of Thunder Bay, Ontario, and near the Manitoba provincial boundary.
Canadian Press reported that homes in the community of 2,100 are overcrowded and in “outrageous disrepair,” citing Joseph Magnet, a University of Ottawa law professor who has visited the reserve.
Reporting by Rod Nickel in Winnipeg, Manitoba; Editing by Richard Chang and Fiona Ortiz