A children's hospital in Mexico City was left in smoldering ruins Thursday morning after an LP gas truck exploded during a delivery, leaving two people dead. But fears that many more victims were trapped beneath the rubble were calmed by evening, when authorities said they did not expect to find victims as cleaning efforts continued.
The explosion struck at about 7:30 am, just outside the kitchen at the Cuajimalpa Maternity and Children's Hospital in the densely populated western hillsides of Mexico's Federal District. At least 66 people were injured, officials said.
News footage showed police officers leading away shocked survivors and paramedics treating bloodied victims inside ambulances.
A fire inside the hospital was still burning several hours after the blast, which was ignited by a leak in a hose between the truck and the building, said Mexico City mayor Miguel Angel Mancera.
"The building is practically collapsed," Mancera told Milenio TV from the blast site.
For most of the day, officials said 7 people had died in the blast. But by 2 pm, the mayor downgraded that figure to 2. Mancera also said the gas leak that caused the blast alerted hospital officials with enough time so that most of the patients and workers were evacuated before the explosion.
The victims were tentatively identified as a nurse and a newborn baby.
'My daughter is in there, in the maternity ward. She just gave birth.'
While injured victims were rushed to hospitals in the surrounding area, frantic relatives of people thought to be inside gathered near the hospital waiting for word on their loved ones.
Ana Maria Sanchez Clemente, 38, stopped and complained to Mexico's interior minister, Miguel Angel Osorio Chong, as he visited the ruined Cuajimalpa hospital. She said she had no information about her sister Carolina, who has worked at the hospital for 20 years.
"I haven't seen her and I know nothing about where she is," Sanchez told VICE News. "They don't let us pass."
Another woman, Maria Lilia Flores, 57, told Sin Embargo: "We don't know how it happened or where they are. My daughter is in there, in the maternity ward. She just gave birth."
At 1:00, a witness captures the moment of the explosion at the Cuajimalpa children's hospital.
The hospital is located in the Cuajimalpa borough of Mexico City, in hills above the upscale business district of Santa Fe. Cuajimalpa borough chief Adrian Ruvalcava said as many as 100 people would have been inside the hospital when the explosion happened.
The facility has a capacity for about 300 employees and patients.
"It's a small hospital," Ruvalcava told Milenio TV. "Many people were able to get out after the explosion. However, we do not know for sure how many people were inside."
The areas that collapsed included an infant ward, an administrative ward, and an area with hospital beds, although the borough chief admitted in an interview that "practically the whole hospital fell apart."
Officials said the delivery truck driver and two assistants had been detained and were being questioned over the incident. The company that owns the truck, Gas Express Nieto, has a contract with the municipal government to supply gas to public hospitals, reports said.
Witnesses told news outlets that the smell of gas was present in the air at the hospital at least 10 minutes before the explosion. Doctor Agustin Herrera told Sin Embargo he watched smoke enter an infant ward. At least 20 children were taken to hospitals with burn injuries, reports said.
The blast will likely draw attention to the management and safety standards of LP gas usage in Mexico. Approximately 72 percent of Mexican households rely on the delivery of LP gas tanks for home cooking and heating, according to LP Gas magazine.
This story has been updated.