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Two Irish students die in blaze at Belgian college

BELGIAN police have found the bodies of two young Irish women following a fire at a college residence.

The fire started at a building in the city of Leuven this morning on the corner of Bank Street and the Kapucijnenvoer, which is connected to the Leuven Institute for Ireland in Europe.

The fire, close to the Irish college, broke out at 6am and took hold for three hours but was extinguished by 9.20am this morning.

Eight students escaped from the building, using the roof or a window – and six of them are understood to be Irish.

They were taken to hospital but are not seriously injured. They are being treated for smoke inhalation and minor burns.

However, two students – both aged 20 and Irish passport holders with Polish and Lithuanian backgrounds – had been missing since the blaze started.

"The firemen went into the house with the dogs and found the bodies of two people upstairs where they were last seen," a police spokesman said.

"Now an investigation is starting – we will try to find the cause of the fire."

Belgian police contacted the Irish Embassy so that the parents of the two students can be informed.

The Irish Ambassador to Belgium was expected to travel to the college and hospital today where the six surviving students are undergoing medical checks.

It is understood that the students in the residence are from various Institutes of Technology around Ireland, and were on courses in the catering and tourism sector.

The two dead students are from Poland and Lithuania but have Irish nationality, police said.

It is understood that the students are Erasmus students - a scheme where Irish students spend a semester of their college studies abroad in a European college.