The toll from a fire that broke out in a coronavirus ward at a hospital in southern Iraq’s Nasiryah city rose to 64 on Tuesday, AP reported.
Over 100 persons sustained injuries in the blaze, unidentified officials told AP.
The fire was reported on Monday night at the Al-Hussein Teaching Hospital and authorities said it occurred due to an electric short circuit. But no official confirmation was made about the cause of the fire. The ward where the fire broke out had been opened just three months ago.
There were at least 63 patients inside the Covid-19 ward when the fire broke out, said Ammar al-Zamili, a spokesperson for the health department of Dhi Qar province, where Nasiriyah is situated,. Major General Khalid Bohan, head of Iraq’s civil defence, told the media that the hospital building was constructed with flammable materials.
Visuals from television network Al-Arabia showed large plumes of smoke emanating out of the hospital as a crowd assembled outside the premises.
Iraq’s Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhemi held an emergency meeting with ministers and security heads to identify the cause of the fire, his office tweeted on Tuesday, according to AFP. The police had detained the province’s health chief and the hospital’s head and the two were being questioned.
A health official in Dhi Qar province told AP that the blaze erupted after an oxygen cylinder exploded. An unidentified official with the country’s health directorate also told AFP that the fire was caused by the “explosion of oxygen tanks”.
Dozens of young demonstrators held protests outside the hospital. “The [political] parties have burned us,” the protestors shouted.
Local authorities have imposed a state of emergency in Dhi Qar province and ordered doctors on leave to help in treating the injured.
This was the second such fire in Iraq in three months. In April, a fire in a Baghdad Covid-19 hospital left 82 persons dead and 110 injured. Health officials had said that the fire started after oxygen tanks exploded, CNN reported.
The fire had led to the suspension and subsequent resignation of then Health Minister Hassan al-Tamimi.
Iraq is currently reeling under a severe Covid-19 wave, as the country’s daily infection count peaked last week to 9,000 new cases.