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At Mexican Hospital, Rescuers Search for Blast Victims

  • VOA News

A paramedic holds the hands of a newborn as his colleague attends to the baby's mother, who'd been evacuated from a hospital on the outskirts of Mexico City after a gas explosion, Jan. 29, 2015. The mother gave birth in the ambulance.

A paramedic holds the hands of a newborn as his colleague attends to the baby's mother, who'd been evacuated from a hospital on the outskirts of Mexico City after a gas explosion, Jan. 29, 2015. The mother gave birth in the ambulance.

Rescue teams searched for possible victims amid the rubble of a mostly collapsed maternity hospital near Mexico City Thursday afternoon, hours after a gas explosion rocked the building, killing at least one woman and child.

At least 56 others were injured in the early morning blast, including more than 20 children, when a gas truck exploded at the city-run Maternity and Children's Hospital of Cuajimalpa, a borough on the city's western edge.

Officials said about 100 people were in the hospital at the time of the explosion, and about 60 have been accounted for.

Initial reports had suggested four to seven people had died in the early morning blast.

Most of the injuries were relatively minor, many caused by flying glass, officials said. But Rafael Gonzalez of the Red Cross said a 27-year-old man had arrived at the agency's hospital with burns over 90 percent of his body and was being treated at another hospital, the Associated Press reported.

Cause of explosion

The disaster happened when a gas tanker truck blew up outside the hospital. Officials said a hose leak from the truck fueling the hospital's tanks was believed to have triggered the explosion, officials said.

Police lines were set up to keep bystanders away from the chaotic scene as people seeking information on family members gathered.

Monserrat Garduno, a 32-year-old nurse, told Reuters, "I am so worried about my sister. She's supposed to have given birth. We brought her in yesterday. They won't let us pass. I want to know how she is."

Rescue workers comb through the rubble of a children's hospital on the outskirts of Mexico City, Jan. 29, 2015.

Rescue workers comb through the rubble of a children's hospital on the outskirts of Mexico City, Jan. 29, 2015.

Felicitas Hernandez, 35, cried as she waited outside the mostly collapsed building hoping for word of her month-old baby, who had been hospitalized since birth with respiratory problems.

"They wouldn't let me sleep with him,'' Hernandez told The Associated Press. She said she had come to the city-run Maternity and Children's Hospital because she had no money.

As the day wore on, people arrived to donate blood, infant formula or diapers, the Associated Press reported.

Hospital heavily damaged

The explosion sent a column of smoke billowing over the area on the western edge of Mexico's capital and television images showed much of the hospital collapsed, with firefighters trying to extinguish fires.

Mexico City Mayor Miguel Angel Mancera said the heaviest damage was near the hospital's loading dock. A hospital worker said the most affected parts of the hospital were the neonatology, reception and emergency reception units.

Anesthesiologist Agustin Herrera, 66, told the Associated Press he'd seen injured mothers carrying out babies. He said that before the explosion, the 35-bed nursery had held nine babies, including one in very serious condition.

"We avoided a much bigger tragedy because the oxygen tanks are right beside [the area] and they didn't explode," Herrera said, adding that the most affected parts of the hospital were the neonatology, reception and emergency reception units.

Mexico's President Enrique Pena Nieto expressed his "sadness and solidarity" with the victims and their families and said soldiers were deployed to help the search for survivors.

Material for this report came from Reuters, AFP and AP.

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