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Video In Mexico City Captures Maternity Hospital Blast, Children Killed

by Gordon Grearson - The Oregon Herald Thursday January 29, 2015    5:06 PM

MEXICO CITY, - Injured and bleeding mothers carried their newborn infants in their arms, frantically running from flames and smoke in an effort to save newborn babies and toddlers in a maternity hospital shattered by a powerful gas explosion. Rescuers swung sledgehammers to break through fallen concrete hunting for others who might be trapped. Other workers and rescuers carried babies from the hospital amid screams of desperation and horror.

A truck carrying liquid natural gas to a Mexico City maternity hospital exploded today, killing perhaps as many as seven people, perhaps many more.

More than 100 people had been inside the Cuajimalpa Maternal Hospital when the blast shattered the city at about 7 a.m., minutes after a hose burst on a truck supplying gas to the building. Paramedics carried bloodied victims on stretchers.

Ivonne Lugo Durantes said she spent 10 minutes trapped under rubble before rescuers reached her.

The supervising nurse called her husband, Mario Angeles Sanchez, after the blast. As she described what was happening, he heard people in the background screaming for help.

"I am still a little bit in shock. It was a nightmare," she said, describing how hospital workers tried to rescue babies from a nursery as flames engulfed the building.

At least one of the fatalities was a woman, the other a child, Mexico City Health Secretary Armando Ahued told reporters. At least 66 people were injured, officials said, including about 20 newborn babies.

Seven babies were in critical condition, he said. Officials initially reported a higher death toll, but later said confusion between the number of those deceased and those seriously injured led to an incorrect report.

Outside the hospital, frantic family members searched for word of loved ones they feared were inside.

Searching continued Thursday evening at the site, though officials said it appeared everyone had been accounted for.

Seven babies were in critical condition, he said. Officials initially reported a higher death toll, but later said a mix-up between the number of those deceased and those seriously injured led to an incorrect report.

Outside the hospital, frantic family members searched for word of loved ones they feared were inside.

Searching continued Thursday evening at the site, though officials said it appeared everyone had been accounted for.

'She covered up the baby and ran'

Jose Eduardo was relieved to learn his wife and son, who was born on Wednesday, had survived the blast. He heard about the explosion on the news from his home, where he'd gone to rest after the baby was born. He rushed to the hospital to be by his wife's side.

"She told me that it started to smell like gas and the ceiling started to fall on everyone," he told reporters. "She covered up the baby and ran."

His wife was barefoot when she escaped, he said. Others were naked.

"We started pulling babies from the debris who were alive," Ignacio, a volunteer at the scene. "We pulled out, fortunately, I think we pulled out seven. We would've wanted to pull out more."

Witnesses said the explosion shook the neighborhood.

"We heard something, and it smelled so much like gas, really a lot. And then two minutes, three seconds later, we saw an explosion that made everything fly in the air," witness Teresa Ramirez said. "It threw me to the ground."

Virginia Gonzalez, who lives near the hospital, said her patio was covered with broken glass from blown-out windows.

After the explosion, Mexicans eager to help lined up at hospitals where victims were being treated, offering to donate blood and bringing bottled water and diapers for survivors.

Lugo, the nurse who was inside the hospital during the explosion, said she is suffering from first-degree burns but feels lucky to be alive.

"I feel grateful to have another chance to keep living," she said, "to keep working as a nurse."

Three detained as authorities investigate blast First, calls came into firefighters reporting a gas leak at the hospital, a facility on the southwest outskirts of Mexico City that is part of the government health system.

Hospital workers had already started evacuating the building when the explosion happened minutes later, Mayor Miguel Angel Mancera told reporters.

One of the city's publicly accessible webcams captured the blast, showing a plume of smoke rising from the direction of the hospital.

A truck was supplying gas to the hospital when apparently a hose burst and the resulting leak caused an explosion, Mancera said.

The driver and two assistants delivering the gas have been detained, Mancera's office said. Two of the detained workers are hospitalized, and one is receiving other medical care, the office said.

The gas in question is known as liquefied petroleum gas, a mix that could be mostly propane or mostly butane. These propane/butane mixes are commonly used in Mexico for heating, cooking and other fuel applications.

Gas Express Nieto, the company that owned the truck, has operated in Mexico City since 2007 and has a contract to supply gas to hospitals run by the Mexico City government, the mayor said.

About 75 percent of the hospital collapsed, officials said, and the priority was to continue digging in search of any trapped survivors. Authorities said they had confirmed that none of the children registered in the hospital were missing, but said it was possible that others who had come for appointments could be trapped.

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