A 71-year-old woman remained missing last night after a fire broke out in a house near Inverness city centre.
Police said initial inquiries suggested she was inside the bungalow at the time of the blaze, which erupted at about 1.55am yesterday.
Emergency services were called to the fire on Island Bank Road and neighbouring residents were evacuated by police amid fears that the flames could spread.
The woman’s next of kin have been made aware and efforts are ongoing to confirm the circumstances.
No one else suffered serious injury.
Detective Inspector Steven Mackenzie said: “Our inquiries are at a very early stage.
“However, our initial inquiries suggest that an occupant was within the property at the time of the fire.
“Due to the extensive structural damage, gaining entry to the building is likely to take some time.
“Structural engineers will assess the building and advise when it will be safe to enter.
“Inquiries are continuing with the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service to establish the full circumstances.
“I would like to thank local residents for their co-operation while these inquiries are ongoing.
“Our thoughts are with the family and friends of those involved.”
Firefighters extinguished the blaze yesterday but were still hosing down hot spots at about 11am – and investigations were being carried out during the afternoon.
The roof of the bungalow home, of 1960s Dorran construction, was completely destroyed, and the blackened interiors of each room reflected the scale of the fire.
A fire service spokeswoman said at its height, four appliances were on scene and firefighters wore breathing apparatus while using high-powered hoses to extinguish the blaze.
Neighbouring Island Court resident Geraldine Connah said she and her husband were woken in their penthouse apartment at about 2.30am by a knock at the door from police.
She said: “There were about three or four ambulances there last night.
“They evacuated this building because it’s behind the house and the fire was in danger of blowing across.
“Police were really professional and very calm and they were trying to sort out a refuge for us should it be required. We were back inside by about 4am.”
Inverness Central ward councillor Bet McAllister said: “It does not look good and it’s very tragic for the family.
“The house went up so quickly and there was very little that could be done.
“By the time they were alerted and got down there, the roof was already coming in.”
Fellow ward councillor Janet Campbell said: “As the occupant of the house remains unaccounted for, I greatly fear that the house fire may have claimed this dear lady’s life.
“Should this be the case, my heart goes out to her family and friends.”
Crown and City Centre community council chairwoman Pat Hayden said: “I am very sorry to hear of this sad news.”