A fast-moving fire killed 31 children in a day care center in northern Mexico despite desperate attempts of firefighters who punched through the walls and fought their way through flames to rescue babies, toddlers and others trapped inside. At least 25 children and five employees were hospitalized after Friday's fire in ABC day care in the city of Hermosillo, said Jose Larrinaga, a spokesman for investigators in the state of Sonora, which borders Arizona.
Some of the injured suffered severe burns and might be taken to US hospitals, Sonora Gov Eduardo Bours said.
"For now, we're concentrating on saving as many kids as possible," he said.
There were about 100 children in the day care at the time, with ages ranging from six months to 5 years, said Guadalupe Ayala, coordinator of Red Cross rescue workers.
"Firefighters had to knock holes in the walls to get the children," he said.
Authorities have identified 27 of the 31 children killed, according to a Sonora government statement on Saturday. The fire may have started at a neighboring tire and car warehouse on Friday afternoon, state officials said. Firefighters took two hours to control the blaze, the cause of which was still unconfirmed. Most the children died from of asphyxiation or smoke inhalation. Neighbors rushed to help pull out the children as screaming preschool teachers ran through thick clouds of black smoke, Reforma newspaper reported.
Sobbing parents flooded hospitals, desperate for news about their children.
Photographs showed the sidewalk outside the day care strewn with upturned, slightly blackened baby seats and cribs. Cribs also could been seen through huge holes punched through the walls. The Mexican government sent a team of 15 burn specialists, three air ambulances, and other medical equipment, President Felipe Calderon said. Mexico's Social Security Institute outsourced services to the privately run day care.
Calderon said he ordered an investigation by Mexico's attorney general.