Two persons, one a 22-month-old child, were hospitalized today after a man splashed acid on five persons sitting on the steps of a vacant store here.

Officials said the toddler, James Scott, was in fair condition at the University of Maryland Hospital, undergoing treatment for severe burns on the face, chest and one leg. Agent Arlene Jenkins, a city police spokeswoman, said his injuries included burns to the eyes that could impair his sight. According a a hospital spokesman, doctors said it was still too early to determine the extent of the damage.

Another victim, Kurt Wise, 20, was in serious condition in the burn unit at Francis Scott Key Medical Center, suffering third degree burns on the chest and arms.

City police said Wise was holding James on his lap Monday night as they sat with three other victims, who were treated and released.

"Somebody came around the corner and threw something on us. He meant to get Kurt," said James' brother, 13-year-old Anton El, who was burned in the chest. "My brother got splashed the worst."

Police were searching for a man about 20 years old who they believe was the attacker.

One victim told police Wise has argued with the man earlier in the day.

The red liquid was not immediately identified othe than as an acid, but it was described as so strong it dissolved clothing in seconds. El said it burned through his jeans, shirt and tennis shoes.

The youth said he picked up his brother, who began crying instantly, and ran across home the street.

"When he brushed against my shirt, it started burning," El said. "I sat him on the couch and took off his shirt and then mine and ran upstairs to put some cold water on me. My mother picked up the baby and ran to the hospital."

Kenneth Sye, 27, suffered burns on the back. Leonard Robinson, 41, was burned on both arms. Both were treated at Bon Secours Hospital and released.