The families of two Irish students who died in a house fire in France are expected to travel there tomorrow.

Post-mortem examinations were carried out today by the French authorities on the bodies of 21-year-old Patricia McDonald from Cootehill, Co Cavan, and 20-year-old Carol Nolan from Greenhills in Dublin.

Both women attended the Institute of Technology Tallaght in southwest Dublin.

An investigation is also underway into the cause of the fire at the women's rented house in Lorient in Brittany.

The bodies of Ms McDonald and Ms Nolan were discovered yesterday in a house they were renting in the Breton town of Lorient.

The house in which they died has been preserved for technical examination by police. Officers have not yet established the cause of the fire.

The two students were spending a year studying at the University of Southern Brittany as part of the ERASMUS international student exchange programme.

ITT's director, Tim Creedon, extended the sympathies of all the staff and students at the college to the students' families, and said the college's international officer would travel to France to provide any assistance required.

Mr Creedon described the two women as hard working, successful students who were very popular with their teachers and student colleagues.

The Department of Foreign Affairs is also providing consular assistance to the families of the students.