EIGHT children have died and a woman has been found with stab wounds in a house in northern Australia, police said.
The bodies of the children, who were aged between 18 months and 15 years, were found in the property in the Cairns suburb of Manoora after Queensland state police received a report of a woman with serious injuries.
A 34-year-old woman, believed to be the mother of seven of the children, was found inside the home suffering from stab wounds to the chest, a Queensland ambulance service spokesman said.
The eighth child is believed to be one of her relatives, Detective Inspector Bruno Asnicar said.
The woman is receiving hospital treatment for her injuries and is in a stable condition.
Police would not say how the children died. Forensic teams are still collecting evidence inside the house.
Detective Inspector Asnicar said: “As it stands at the moment, there’s no need for the public to be concerned about this other than the fact that it’s a tragic, tragic event.
“The situation is well controlled at the moment. There shouldn’t be any concern for anyone else out of this environment.”
Officials have not yet identified any suspects, but are talking to a range of people, he said.
“Everybody who’s had any involvement at all in the past two or three days is a person of interest,” he added.
Australian prime minister Tony Abbott said: “The news out of Cairns is heartbreaking.
“All parents would feel a gut-wrenching sadness at what has happened. This is an unspeakable crime. These are trying days for our country.”
Acting Chief Superintendent Russell Miller said officials believe it is an isolated incident and there is no threat to the rest of the community.
Lisa Thaiday, who said she is the injured woman’s cousin, said one of the woman’s other sons, a 20-year-old, came home to find his brothers and sisters dead inside the house.
“I’m going to see him now, he needs comforting,” Ms Thaiday said.
“We’re a big family ... I just can’t believe it. We just found out (about) those poor babies.”
The street has been cordoned off and a crime scene will remain in place for at least the next day, Det Insp Asnicar said.
Dozens of police officers descended on the home, while crowds of locals stood outside the police barricades.
“These events are extremely distressing for everyone of course and police officers aren’t immune from that - we’re human beings as well,” Det Insp Asnicar said.
The tragedy comes as Australia is still reeling from the shock of a deadly siege in a Sydney cafe earlier this week.
On Monday, a gunman burst into a cafe in the heart of the city and took 18 people inside hostage.
Two hostages were killed along with the gunman after police stormed in 16 hours later in a bid to end the siege.