7 Jun 2009

Toll continues to rise in Mexico daycare centre blaze

5:29 pm on 7 June 2009

The death toll from a fire at a daycare center in northern Mexico is now 38 children with 23 more in hospital, many with life-threatening burns.

Mexican President Felipe Calderon ordered an investigation into Friday's fire at the ABC daycare center in the northern city of Hermosillo.

Health Minister Raymundo Lopez told reporters late Saturday that of the children in hospital "15 of them are in danger of losing their lives over the next few hours."

As flames blocked the centre's doorway, employees and neighbours used cars to punch holes through a wall and stumbled over unconscious infants and toddlers as they tried to rescue them, witnesses said.

Smoke inhalation killed many children before rescuers could reach them, with the victims ranging in age from a few months old to about three-years-old, authorities said.

It was unclear where or how the fire started, although it may have broken out in a nearby warehouse or a tire workshop, the government said.

The city of about 700,000 people is located 270km south of the border with the US state of Arizona.

Mr Calderon said he was rushing medical assistance to overwhelmed medical staff in Hermosillo, including air ambulances and specialists in reconstructive surgery.

Daniel Karam, head of the Mexican agency responsible for health care and social security told reporters that more than 140 children were in the ABC daycare centre when the fire broke out.

He said the centre had passed its last government inspection in May.

Six adults also were hospitalized in less serious condition after the fire.