An explosive-like fire struck the garish, 30-story Las Vegas Hilton casino resort hotel tonight, racing out of control in seconds.
Three bodies were found in an elevator lobby on the 8th floor and two elderly persons were found dead on the 10th floor, officials said.
More than 100 persons were taken to four nearby hospitals, most of them suffering from smoke inhalation.
The blaze was the second major fire to hit a Las Vegas casino high-rise in three months. On Nov. 21, 84 were killed when an early-morning fire raced through the casino at the MGM Grand Hotel and trapped guests above.
After that blaze, Fritz Huebler, manager of the Las Vegas Hilton, said that his hotel "has the highest degree of safety. Like everyone else, we review it every month or so."
Hotel officials said shortly after tonight's fire started that guests were being evacuated from all six wings of the 2,783-room hotel, described as the largest in North America.
The fire seemed to explode out of the eighth floor about 8:15 and then shot within moments to the rooftop 22 stories above. "It leaped up to the roof, window to window, on the outside," Capt. Ralph Dinsman of the Clark County Fire Department said when the blaze was brought under control 2 1/2 hours later.
Dinsman had no confirmed information about the fire's cause.
Ninety minutes after the fire began, dozens of ambulances were lined up at the rear of the six-wing hotel and injured persons were being brought out regularly by firemen. Rescue helicopters also were taking people off the roof.
The scene was bedlam shortly after the fire broke out. The fire appeared to be confined to one wing. An eighth-floor window was burning and black fire and smoke trails led in a hugh V up the outside of the building to the penthouse roof. A bedsheet escape rope ladder, apparently unused, dangled from a 10th floor window.
The scene around the massive resort hotel, which is set back away from the famous Las Vegas strip, and about two miles from the MGM Grand, was an almost surreal mix of neon, flashing police, fire and rescue lights and gray smoke billowing up toward what had moments before been a clear desert sky.
Two rescue helicopters orbited the roof, flashing searchlights into some upper-story rooms and finally landing to rescue persons who had made their way to the top.
Walt Thurman, a San Francisco businessman, described a scene of sheer terror on the 10th floor.
He said he heard no alarm and no sprinklers were activated. Thurman was trapped for about an hour on the 10th floor, taking "buckets of water out of my bathtub" to douse flames in the hall.
Victor Scherr, 35, a Torrance, Calif., banker, said an "acid smoke" was so thick he had to crawl on his stomach down the hallway, then walked 26 flights down the stairs.