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Day care center blaze kills 31

A fast-moving fire killed 31 children in a day care center in 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 the ABC center in the city of Hermosillo, said Jose Larrinaga, spokesman for investigators in the state of Sonora.

Some of the injured suffered severe burns and might be taken to US hospitals, Sonora Governor Eduardo Bours said.

"For now, we're concentrating on saving as many kids as possible," he said.

There were about 100 children in the center at the time, with ages ranging from six months to five 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 yesterday.

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 of the children died of asphyxiation and 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.

The Mexican government has sent a team of 15 burn specialists, three air ambulances, and other medical equipment, President Felipe Calderon said.

Calderon said he has also ordered Attorney General Eduardo Medina Mora to start an investigation.


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