, MEXICO CITY, Jun 6 – A fire at a day-care centre in northern Mexico has killed at least 29 young children and left dozens of others injured, police and officials said.
Many of the victims died from asphyxiation, officials said.
In desperate scenes, local residents smashed the cement walls of the centre in the state capital Hermosillo with cars and vans to try to save the children, said Jose Larrinaga, spokesman for the state attorney general’s office, on Televisa television channel.
Around 25 children and five adults were being treated Saturday in local hospitals, including some "in grave condition," Larrinaga said.
The children were aged between three months and two years, he added.
Radio reports said there were many newborn babies in part of the centre where the fire caused the roof to collapse.
"Where’s God? Where’s God?" a police commander said as he came out of the centre in tears, radio reports said.
Between 50 and 70 children and a handful of care workers had been taking an afternoon nap when the fire broke out Friday, Larrinaga said.
Local media said that there were 176 children inside the ABC day-care centre.
The centre, in a working class neighbourhood in the south of the city, had a staff of around 20 people.
It belonged to Mexico’s social security network, the Mexican presidency said in a statement. President Felipe Calderon had felt "most profound pain and expressed his most deeply felt condolences to the families of the children," it said.
The federal government has rushed to the area three additional ambulance crews as well as a dozen medical specialist trained to work with burn victims, the presidency statement added.
State investigators followed fire-fighters, Red Cross workers and police to the scene, police said in a statement.
Local media suggested the fire had started in a neighbouring tire shop, a claim the owners quickly denied, according to news reports.
But the local prosecutor’s office cautioned against premature conclusions saying at the moment "it would be adventurous to pass judgment on what caused the fire."
Meanwhile dozens of worried families gathered at the centre as well as at hospitals around the city.
Medics transferred five children who had been identified by their parents to Sonora State children’s hospital, a medical worker told AFP.
At least 30 children with serious burns were transferred overnight to a specialized hospital across the border in Arizona, according to El Imparcial daily.
Calderon called on the national social security director, Daniel Karam Toumeh, to personally visit families and injured children at the scene, the statement said.
The federal government had sent three air ambulances and more than a dozen specialized doctors to help out, it added.
State Governor Eduardo Bours was in Arizona when the fire broke out and returned to Hermosillo Friday evening.