A fire and rescue spokesperson told WWL that a group of people had gathered in the building and burned wood in a barrel to stay warm. The fire broke out around 2 a.m. and the survivors got out through a window.
Temperatures were around freezing overnight in New Orleans.
New Orleans Fire Chief Charles Parent said the bodies have been turned over to the coroner's office, but that firefighters couldn't tell their age or gender. He said that cadaver dogs will be brought in at daylight in case there were others in the building.
Parent said the fire department has a program to check abandoned buildings and to close them up and secure them but said the number of them makes it near impossible to guarantee that all are closed up properly.