THESE are the first pictures of six young children and a teacher who were burned to death in a suspected arson attack on a nursery by a mentally ill security guard.
Police believe Damiao Soares dos Santos, 50, poured gasoline over the children and himself then set himself alight.
The suspect – a security guard named Damiao Soares dos Santos – allegedly threw gasoline over children at the nursery before setting them on fire and himself, police say.
He is also alleged to have locked a teacher in a room before setting fire to the professional.
A further 25 people were injured in the attack, with nine left fighting for their lives.
The alleged perpetrator, 50 – who had been working as a night watchman at the day care centre for eight years – was taken to hospital with approximately 90 per cent of burns to his body. He has since died from his injuries.
The tots, aged between two and four, and one teacher were burned alive at the Innocent Children’s People Municipal Education Centre, in Janaúba, Minas Gerias, police said.
Harrowing footage from the scene appears to show distraught parents crowded outside the school in the hope of finding out what has happened to their children.
Lieutenant Colonel John Aparecido Nascimento, commander of Military Police told local news media: “The situation has caused a great deal of commotion in the city. We believe a security guard at the nursery set himself on fire and set fire on children in the kindergarten.”
The Legal medical Institute (IML) in Janauba released the names of the children who died in the attack as Ana Clara Ferreira Silva, Luiz Davi Carlos Rodrigues, Juan Pablo Cruz dos Santos and Juan Miguel Soares Silva. All were four years old.
Mayor of Janauba, Carlos Isaildon Mendes, confirmed that the teacher, named as Helley Abreu Batista, died from her injuries after being taken to hospital.
Janauba Regional Hospital also reported that about 40 people had been treated by the unit – 25 of them remain hospitalised suffering from severe burns and 15, who were in shock, have been released.
Among the hospitalised patients, 14 are children aged four to five.
Speaking to local media Mr Mendes said: “This is a very complicated situation. This was a decent employee who was on holiday from work.
“I had just returned from visiting the nursery. I was told (Damiao) knocked at the gate saying he wanted to deliver a medical certificate because he claimed he was not feeling well.
“He has been an employee since 2008 and has never had a bad record so we could never have anticipated something of this nature happening.”
According to a spokesperson from Janaúba city authority, Damiao went to the nursery carrying a pink backpack.
The spokesperson said: “Staff at the nursery found it strange that he chose to ring the bell and that he was at the nursery outside of working hours.
“But he said he was there to deliver a medical certificate.
“We believe he was carrying a bag of flammable liquid, possibly alcohol or gasoline in his backpack, which he used to set fire to the victims and himself.
“Staff at the nursery said he poured the liquid over the children and set fire (to himself and to them). We were also told he embraced some of the children which caused their bodies to burn.”
According to the spokesperson the room where the students were trapped has bars on the window and a PVC ceiling which is flammable.
In an update to the death toll from Minas Gerais police, a spokesperson said: “We can confirm four children and a teacher have died, and 25 people are injured, nine are in a critical condition.”
Emergency services were on the scene within minutes of the tragedy as residents gathered at the scene of the attack.
Police rescue helicopters were also dispatched to help support the emergency services.
The motive of the attacker remains unclear.
Some residents have claimed the night watchman had recently been sacked by the nursery and came back for revenge.
But this motive is yet to be confirmed by investigators.
The Minas Gerais state government reported that two helicopters, from the police and fire service based in the capital Belo Horizonte were helping with the rescue of the injured in the city.
Some victims have been taken to hospitals in other cities with facilities to treat burns.
The João XXIII Hospital, in Belo Horizonte, has already set up a structure to receive patients who are being transported from the scene.
The Janaúba Regional Hospital is treating some of the victims of the fire.
Hospital director, Helton Ricardo Mendes, told Globo News: “Children are being transferred to paediatric unit and adults are being treated here. We have a team of 30 doctors, 30 nurses and 50 nursing technicians to attend to the wounded.”
Brazilian President Michel Temer voiced his horror at the atrocity. He told Correio Braziliense: “I want to express my solidarity and regret about this event, and hope that these things will not happen again in Brazil, because the world is revolted by the incident.”
Janaúba is in the north of the state of Minas Gerais and has about 70,000 inhabitants.