AFP - Traumatized parents on Saturday began the heart-wrenching task of identifying the young victims of a fire that tore through a Mexican daycare, killing at least 38 infants and toddlers.
The final toll from Friday's fire, which gutted the state-run ABC nursery in Hermosillo, northern Mexico, could rise further, as doctors struggle to save 23 children who remain hospitalized.
But while some were bracing for the most distressing duty a parent could face -- that of identifying their child's remains -- others were struggling to determine the identities of the severely burned survivors of the tragedy.
"There are children in the hospital with such bad burns that it is impossible for their parents to identify them," a doctor at the local pediatric hospital said.
Many of those who perished were burned beyond recognition. Fifteen of those hospitalized are in extremely serious condition.
Some of the victims were buried Saturday, including the young daughter of a couple whose second daughter is hospitalized in serious condition.
Around 142 children were in the building at the time of the blaze, which according to one security guard spread from a nearby cellar full of government documents.
Other reports indicated the fire may have started in a tire shop located at the back of the nursery.
"All we saw was a column of smoke coming from the back and we immediately grabbed the fire extinguishers we have here," said Francisco Escalante, who works at a fuel station in front of the nursery.
A tire shop worker, who identified himself only as Rigoberto, said local residents scrambled to save those inside once the extent of the blaze became apparent, rescuing many before firefighters arrived.
But their efforts became increasingly difficult as the fire intensified.
"We ran to try to save the little ones, but the plastic from the mattresses in the cribs burned very quickly. By the time we tried to rescue them we could no longer see" because of the thick smoke, Rigoberto said.
"The ones that came out first were the ones that were saved," he said.
Ofelia Quintero, a neighbor who corralled around 30 of the surviving children, spoke of the horror of the scene as she waited for the parents to arrive.
"They were exasperating moments watching the children crying and mothers screaming," she said.
Many have yet to discover the fate of their loved ones.
"My sister came yesterday (Friday) to try and find my nephew," said 11-year-old Gustavo Rey, who stood watch outside the nursery on his bike while his sister's desperate search continued.
"When she saw what happened she went to look for him at the hospital and she did not find him," an anguished Gustavo said.
Police sealed off the area on Saturday, but large holes could be seen in one wall were a man rammed his truck into the building in a desperate effort to save the children from suffocating inside.