A "fierce fire" at a care home has left two people dead - with a further 33 having to be rescued from the collapsing building.
The blaze gutted Newgrange Care Home in Cadmore Lane, Cheshunt, after it broke out at about 05:50 BST. Hertfordshire Fire and Rescue service said 12 fire engines were sent to the care home and that an "excellent effort" had been made by everyone involved in the rescue.
Despite firefighters launching a "challenging" rescue operation, they were unable to save everyone inside. Three needed hospital treatment for minor burns and smoke inhalation, the fire service said.
Chief fire officer for Hertfordshire, Darryl Keen, said the fire "had spread inside the roof all the way along the entire property".
"That rapidly escalated and the crews worked extremely hard in very difficult circumstances to rescue 33 of the 35 people who were in that property."
"We had a number of people that were unable to get themselves out, you know, physically would not have been able to move even under normal circumstances," he said.
(Photograph by Paul Wood)
"And when you add the difficulties that a fire would create to the situation, it makes it even worse".
Hertfordshire County Council said in a statement: "Firefighters were faced with an extremely fierce fire, well-established in the first floor and the roof of the building, which has since collapsed."
"Sadly, we can confirm that two people died in the fire and we would like to offer our sympathies to their families," the statement added.
Eyewitness reports state ‘Tall flames where coming out the top of the building and the roof had fallen in, firefighters were carrying out the elderly in their nightwear and armchairs’
A spokeswoman for Hertfordshire Police said: "Officers attended and assisted with the evacuation of the building and helped to transport residents to an emergency reception centre, which was set up nearby."
"Investigations are being led by the fire service at this stage and we will continue to provide assistance where necessary."
The statement from the county council added that it was working with Broxbourne Council and the health service to assess the needs of the evacuated residents and arrange alternative accommodation.