By Lise Alves, Senior Contributing Reporter
SÃO PAULO, BRAZIL – At least five children and a teacher were killed on Thursday as a security guard for a day care center in the little town of Janaúba, Minas Gerais threw alcohol on them and then lit a match. As many as twenty children were taken to area hospitals for burns and smoke inhalation, according to officials. The attack sent shockwaves throughout the country.
The children were all in the classroom when 50-year-old Damião Soares dos Santos entered the premises, walked into a classroom full of four-year olds, threw the inflammable liquid on them and himself and lit a match. Santos who also lit himself on fire died hours later in the hospital.
In all twenty persons, including children and teachers, were hurt in the fire. With only 2 hospitals in the small town of 80,000 people, many of the more seriously hurt were taken by police helicopter to Minas Gerais’ capital Belo Horizonte, more than 500 kilometers away.
Minas Gerais Governor Fernando Pimentel visited the victims and relatives of those affected by the tragedy and reiterated the government’s commitment ‘to help in what is possible’.
Governor Pimentel ordered the creation of a special operation to receive the victims, both in hospitals in the region and in in Belo Horizonte. “All the necessary structure, which includes aircraft, vehicles and other public equipment, are to be available,” said the governor in a statement.
“Unfortunately, the deaths that occurred there on the spot could not be avoided. But those who have been rescued, the children and the adults as well, we are very hopeful that all will survive,” Pimentel told reporters at the scene.
Police are still investigating what led Santos to partially torch the day care facility he had been working in for since 2008.