An explosion early Thursday destroyed most of a maternity and children’s hospital in Mexico City, killing at least two people and trapping and injuring dozens.
Smoke, flames and dust billowed into the sky after the blast. Rescuers pulled from the ruins doctors, nurses, pregnant women and newborns during a frantic operation to find survivors and save the injured.
More than 60 children and adults were injured, mostly by flying glass and the flames, according to firefighters, Red Cross personnel, police and other workers who flooded the scene. The dead were identified only as a woman and a minor.
Officials earlier gave a larger death toll, but it was revised downward, although 22 of the injured were in critical condition and other peopele may still be trapped, Mayor Miguel Angel Mancera said.
Racked by uncontrollable sobs, Maria Angeles Bautista was among scores of people who crowded the scene frantically seeking information on relatives among the patients or hospital employees.
“My niece gave birth on Monday but the baby had a low weight, so they were still hospitalized,” said Bautista, 54. “We don’t know anything about the two. We’ve gone to all the hospitals, but there is no information. We are desperate.”
A man who did not give his name also broke into tears as he talked about his wife, who had given birth the day before. He believed a lot of the destruction was in the area of the cribs and incubators.
Felipe Rojas, a 50-year-old taxi driver, rushed to the site after hearing the blast, described by many as a thunderous roar. His daughter works as a nurse in the hospital.
“Thank God, I could talk to her; she’s fine but doesn’t know about her fellow nurses,” Rojas said. “She was crying a lot for the babies.”
The explosion happened about 7 a.m., before visiting hours and a shift change to the busier daytime schedule. That, combined with the hospital being relatively small, probably averted a higher casualty toll.
There were conflicting reports of what had caused the explosion, but the investigation was focusing on a possible leak of gas that was being pumped by hose from a delivery truck to the hospital’s kitchen. The blast was concentrated around the kitchen and the emergency-area arrival bays. Neighbors reported a strong smell of gas before the blast.
Nearly 70% of the government-run, two-story hospital, which caters primarily to middle- and lower-income patients, collapsed or was heavily damaged, Mancera said.
The scene at the hospital was chaotic, with streets clogged by traffic, firetrucks and ambulances, as helicopters ferried away the injured. Rescuers, some with sniffer dogs, emerged from the ruins covered with dust and ash. Nearby homes and cars were damaged.
Milenio Television reported that a pregnant woman who was removed from the ruins gave birth in the ambulance taking her to another facility.
The hospital is located in the Cuajimalpa district, on the far western edge of the sprawling capital.
Mancera, the mayor, said three people with the gas company supplying the hospital were detained for questioning about possible negligence.
Sanchez is a special correspondent.
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