31 children die in nursery fire
A fire at a daycare centre in northern Mexico has killed at least 31 young children and left dozens of others injured, police and officials said yesterday.
Many of the victims from Friday's blaze -- children aged between three months and two years -- died from asphyxiation, officials said.
The death toll continued to rise into the weekend. "We continue to get the bodies out," Jose Larrinaga, a spokesman for the local prosecutor's office, told reporters after the fire died down, adding it was too early to announce a final toll.
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 Larrinaga on Televisa television channel.
Around 25 children and five adults were being treated Saturday in local hospitals, including some "in grave condition", he said.
Radio reports said there were many newborn babies in a 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 daycare centre.
The centre, in a working class neighbourhood in the south of Hermosillo, 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 specialists trained to work with burn victims, the presidency statement added.
State investigators followed firefighters, 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 shopowners 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 specialised hospital across the border to the US state of 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.