FIVE young Irish students have died after a balcony collapsed in Berkeley, California this morning.
Ireland's Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan confirmed this afternoon that all five are Irish citizens - and it is believed they had recently travelled to California on a J1 visa.
It is believed four of the deceased died at the scene, while a fifth died in hospital.
A further eight Irish people were injured in the tragedy and were taken to a nearby hospital.
The incident, which is reported to have happened at about 1am local time, occurred at an Irish 21st birthday party at the apartment.
Minister Flanagan today expressed his sympathies to the families of those involved.
"It is with great sadness that I confirm that a number of young Irish citizens have lost their lives while a number of others have been seriously injured following the collapse of a balcony in Berkley, California earlier today,” he said.
“My heart goes out to the families and loved ones of the deceased and those who have been injured in this appalling accident. My Department in Dublin stands ready to provide all possible consular assistance to the Irish citizens affected by this tragedy.”
It is believed the fourth floor balcony collapsed onto the balcony below, before falling to ground level, killing the five people.
— Kristen Sze (@abc7kristensze) June 16, 2015
The Irish Consulate in San Francisco is providing assistance to those on the ground.
Anyone with concerns about friends or family in the region, should call the Emergency Consular Response Team in Ireland on 0035314180200.
This story was updated at 14:00 on June 16, 2015
Update at 14.23 : Reports suggest 12-14 people aged between 20 and 22 were on the balcony when it collapsed. ABC7 reports the building was constructed "recently".
Update 14.25: A tweet from The Irish Foreign Ministry
Anyone with concerns about friends or family in the Berkeley region, should call the Emergency Consular Response Team on +353 1 418 0200
— Irish Foreign Ministry (@dfatirl) June 16, 2015
Update: 15.07: Local reporter Holly Kwan says it looks like the balcony came loose and flipped over on itself