(Adds dateline, byline, as many as 10 people still missing)
By Dave Warner
POINT PLEASANT BEACH, N.J., March 21 (Reuters) - A search was under way for as many as 10 people, still unaccounted for after a fire raced through a Jersey Shore motel early on Friday, killing three and critically injuring three others.
Beach breezes whipped up the flames that engulfed the Mariner's Cove Motor Inn in Point Pleasant Beach, New Jersey, fire and law enforcement officials said at a press conference.
As many as 10 people were still missing after bodies were pulled from the scorched ruins of the two-story motel, said Ocean County Prosecutor Joseph Coronato.
The fire was reported just after 5:30 a.m. (0930 GMT) and was extinguished within a few hours, said Al Della Fave, spokesman for the Ocean County Prosecutor's Office.
"They are in the rescue and recovery phase, going room to room to be sure everyone is out of the structure," Della Fave told Reuters.
Mariner's Cove Motor Inn, which has a large swimming pool, is located near Cooks Creek, a narrow waterway that connects the Manasquan River to Lake Louise. The seaside town of Point Pleasant Beach is a popular destination for millions of sun-worshippers who flock to the Jersey Shore every summer.
The cause of the fire was unknown and under investigation, said Della Fave.
(Additional reporting by Barbara Goldberg and Chris Francescani; Editing by James Dalgleish, Stephen Powell and Gunna Dickson)