At least 31 small children died, including many who were asphyxiated, after a fire raced through a daycare center in the northwestern Mexican border state of Sonora, police and officials said on Friday.
In desperate scenes, local residents smashed the cement walls of the center 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 the Televisa TV channel.
Around 25 children and five adults were being treated yesterday in local hospitals, including some “in grave condition,” Larrinaga said.
The children were aged between three months and two years, he said.
Radio reports said there were many newborn babies in part of the center where the fire caused the roof to collapse.
“Where's God? Where's God?” a police commander said as he came out of the center 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 on Friday, Larrinaga said.
Local media said that there were 176 children inside the ABC daycare center.
The center, in a working class neighborhood in the south of the city, had a staff of about 20.
Mexican President Felipe Calderon had felt “most profound pain and expressed his most deeply felt condolences to the families of the children,” it said.
Local media reports suggested that the fire had started in a neighboring tire shop, a claim the owners quickly denied, news reports said.
But the local prosecutor's office cautioned against premature conclusions, saying that at the moment “it would be adventurous to pass judgment on what caused the fire.”