A house fire on the edge of Brisbane has killed 11 people, including a three-year-old and seven other children and teenagers.

The blaze is believed to have taken hold while the two families who lived there were sleeping.

Three people escaped and one is in hospital with serious burns. One survivor, Jeremiah Lale, lost his wife and five children who were aged between seven and 18.

Reports say he hurled mattresses to the ground and jumped from a second-storey window, screaming for his family to follow him, but they never came.

Police superintendent Noel Powers said: "Never in my service, never have I seen anything like this.

"What is readily evident is that it's a total and utter catastrophe, a tragedy beyond all proportions."

He could not confirm the victims’ identities, and said identification could take some time.

He added that some of the experts called in to deal with the tragedy have helped in the Bali bombings.

Emergency services are now making sure the house is safe so bodies can be recovered.

Neighbours said they heard explosions and screaming coming from the house in Kingston, 20 miles south of Brisbane, where the fire was so far out of control that part of the roof had caved in.

Within hours over 100 shocked members of the community gathered on the street outside the house to mourn.