An early morning fire swept through an inner city housing project Saturday, killing five children and critically injuring two others and the grandmother who was watching them, police said.

The two-alarm blaze started in the kitchen of a second-floor apartment in the Currie Woods Housing Project about 4:20 a.m. while Helen Cousins, 62, and her nine grandchildren slept, Jersey City Police Lt. Donald Loehwing said.Loehwing said five of the children, ranging in age from 5 to 10, died instantly of smoke inhalation.

Two fire detectors in the apartment apparently failed to work and were confiscated by officials, said Jersey City Fire Department Battalion Chief Dennis Onieal.