(Blumenau) A daycare center in southern Brazil was the scene of horror on Wednesday, when a 25-year-old man burst into it and killed four children with axes, in a country where attacks on schools have increased these last years.

The drama took place in the morning, in a private daycare center where there were about forty children in Blumenau, a city of approximately 360,000 inhabitants in the state of Santa Catarina.

“The attacker jumped over the daycare wall armed with a small axe. […] He used it to hit the children, especially on the head,” fire chief Diogo de Souza Clarindo told a press briefing.

According to him, the victims, three boys and a girl, were between five and seven years old. The assailant also injured four children, all of whom were hospitalized “in stable condition”, local Santo Antonio Hospital said.

Military Police announced that the suspect had surrendered and was taken into custody. According to several media outlets, citing police sources, he was in a “psychotic fit” at the time of the attack, and had no connection to the daycare.

“It is with enormous sadness that I learned that an assassin broke into the Cantinho do Bom Pastor private daycare center in Blumenau and attacked children and employees,” Governor Jorginho Mello said. in a press release.

The town hall of Blumenau decreed an official 30-day mourning and canceled classes at all municipal schools on Wednesday.

In a testimony to the website of the daily Folha de S. Paulo, a daycare worker said she locked the room where the babies were to protect them from the assailant.

This new attack in a school has aroused great emotion in Brazil. President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva immediately sent a message of condolence to the families, condemning this “monstrous” act.

“There is no greater pain for a family than to lose children, or grandchildren, especially in an act of violence against innocent and helpless children,” the head of state tweeted. .

The situation was tense around the nursery: images from the G1 site showed a heavy presence of rescuers and law enforcement, while several dozen people waited for news behind the security cordon.

“Calm down, only parents” are allowed in, shouted a policeman.

“My wife is in shock,” the husband of one of the daycare workers told reporters, including AFP.

“She told me that when the guy left she tried to resuscitate a child but couldn’t,” he added.

Attacks on schools have increased in Brazil in recent years. In November, a 16-year-old boy killed four people at two schools in Aracruz, in the southeastern state of Espirito Santo.

Last week, a 71-year-old teacher was stabbed to death by a 13-year-old student in Sao Paulo (southeast), Brazil’s most populous city and economic capital.

A tragedy also took place at a daycare center in 2017, when a man set fire to the establishment, killing nine children and a teacher and injuring around 40 people.

The deadliest attack took place in 2011, when a former elementary school student killed 12 children before ending his life with a gun, in the popular neighborhood of Realengo, Rio de Janeiro ( South East).