A gunman has reportedly shot to death at least 10 children at an elementary school in western Rio de Janeiro. Initial reports said up to 20 people, including children and adults, were killed in the shooting at Tasso da Oliveira Municipal School on Thursday.
The student victims were nine girls and one boy, the health ministry told CNN, while 18 others were wounded. Reports of the exact numbers killed varied Thursday.
The vice-mayor of western Rio, Edmar Teixeira, reportedly said the gunman was a former student who pretended to be giving a speech to students before opening fire with two handguns shortly before 9 a.m. local time.
When police appeared at the school hall at Tasso Da Silveira, the gunman shot himself dead, Teixeira said, adding that he'd left behind a letter outlining his motives.
The man was identified as Wellington Menezes de Oliveira, 23, a former student at the school, CNN reported, quoting the state-run Agencia Brasil news agency.
Agencia Brasil reported that Oliveira was shot by military police trying to flee the scene and later died. There were reports that the letter he left mentioned that he had HIV.
A firefighter earlier told the Guardian that up to 20 children were feared dead in the shooting. "It is a massacre, a true massacre. There is blood on the walls, blood on the chairs. There are 15 to 20 dead I think," Roni de Macedo told the paper.
Television images showed relatives crowing into the school crying and screaming for information about their children. Three helicopters also landed on a football field next to the school to ferry the wounded to nearby hospitals, Sky News reported.
Most were taken to the Albert Schweitzer Hospital, reported CNN, adding that Rio de Janeiro's Hematology Institute, which coordinates the distribution of blood for transfusions, had put out a call via Twitter for donations.
Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff said she was "shocked" by the attack and had "great concern" about the incident, CNN reported.