(AP) – A man with a hatchet invaded a daycare center Wednesday in Brazil, killing four children and wounding at least five others, authorities said.
The state’s firefighter corps said the assailant jumped over one of the center’s walls to get inside. The dead were between the ages of 5 and 7.
The man turned himself in at a police station and did not appear to have any connection with the school. Authorities were searching for a motive, a police detective told television reporters in Blumenau.
Images broadcast on networks showed weeping parents outside the private daycare center called Cantinho do Bom Pastor.
Amid rumors on social media of other potential attacks, Blumenau’s mayor, Mário Hildebrandt, said the city suspended classes and will declare a 30-day mourning period.
Hildebrandt said five wounded children were taken to hospitals. One was in serious condition.
School attacks in Brazil have happened with greater frequency in recent years. Last week, a student in Sao Paulo fatally stabbed a teacher and wounded several others in Sao Paulo.
Brazil has seen at least one past attack on a daycare center. That attack also occurred in Santa Catarina state, in 2021. That killer used a dagger to kill three children under 2 years old and two adults.
From 2000 to 2022, there have been 16 attacks or violent episodes in schools, four of which happened in the second half of last year, according to a report from researchers led by Daniel Cara, an education professor at the University of Sao Paulo. The researchers prepared the report for the government of President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva.
“There is no greater pain than that of a family who loses its children or grandchildren, even more so in an act of violence against innocent and defenseless kids,” Lula wrote Wednesday on Twitter. “My thoughts and prayers are the families of victims and the community of Blumenau in the face of the monstrosity of what occurred.”
Blumenau, a city of 366,000 people, is famous for its annual Oktoberfest festival.