Howard County police were searching today for the mother of a newborn infant discovered in a laundry room of the River Island Apartments here.

Tina Morse, a resident of the building who found the baby girl, said she was waiting for friends on the second-floor landing about 3 p.m. Tuesday when she heard what she thought was the faint cry of a cat.

She said she opened the door of a nearby laundry room to investigate and was shocked by the sight of the infant, umbilical cord still attached, lying unclothed on one of the dryers.

"It was crying a faint cry, not a loud cry," said Morse, 16, a student at Hammond High School. Police said the black-haired, blue-eyed girl, estimated to be no more than two hours old, apparently had been abandoned by her mother.

The 7-pound infant was taken to Howard County General Hospital, and was found to be in good health, police said.

Police returned to the three-story garden apartment complex, located off Rte. 1 in an industrial area of the county, to knock on doors in search of the child's mother.

The police spokesman said the mother could be charged with abandonment, a misdemeanor that carries a one-year jail sentence, but said investigators were more interested in locating the mother than charging her at this point.

Ova Sisselberger, who lives next door to the laundry room, said the door to the room is never locked.

"I know a couple of the girls who are pregnant, but none of them around here are due that I know of," she said.

Morse meanwhile was somewhat of a celebrity today as television news teams and reporters appeared at her school and at her home seeking interviews.

"I thought at first someone could have left it, but the wouldn't have left it like that with no clothes or anything," she said. "I was just scared I'd hurt it, especially carrying it upstairs."

Police said the child will be turned over to the Howard County Department of Social Services, which will place her in a foster home until the mother can be located.