Thirty children, including 17 newborns, have died in the last 48 hours after oxygen supply to the children’s department in Baba Raghav Das Medical College and Hospital in Uttar Pradesh’s Gorakhpur district was disrupted, ANI reported on Friday.

Earlier, reports had attributed the deaths to encephalitis, a condition which causes high fever and brain inflammation. However, a statement released by the hospital later showed only five of the 30 deaths were of children suffering from the acute encephalitis syndrome. Seventeen deaths were reported from the neo-natal ICU.

Twenty three children died on Thursday night, while seven lost their lives on Friday after oxygen supply to the hospital was disrupted at 7.30 pm on Thursday. “On August 10, at 7.30 pm, the pressure in the liquid oxygen started falling,” the hospital said in a statement. “Fifty-two oxygen cylinders kept in reserve were used as a replacement. Fifty cylinders were sourced from IGL Faizabad that arrived at 1.30 pm on August 11 in ward No 100. These were immediately connected by the central pipeline operator.”

“On August 11, at 8.30 am, again cylinders came from IGL Faizabad, and were used,” the statement said. “At 1.30 pm, 22 cylinders came from Modi Pharma Gorakhpur. At 4.30 pm, 36 cylinders came from Modi Pharma that were used. Hundred cylinders were sent to Modi Pharma for refill.”

The hospital added that they were hoping that the 100 cylinders would come back by 11 pm on Friday.

The oxygen supply was allegedly stopped after the hospital failed to clear the suppliers’ bill of Rs 67 lakh, the Hindustan Times had reported. “The supply of liquid oxygen was disrupted yesterday day due to pending payments. We had requested the suppliers not to disrupt supply,” District Magistrate Rajeev Rautela had said.

Uttar Pradesh government reacts

However, Uttar Pradesh’s Medical Education Minister Ashutosh Tondon said, “no deaths were caused due to lack of oxygen supply”, according to ANI. He said seven people died on Friday, out of which three deaths were reported from the neo-natal ICU. “Two others died due to acute encephalitis syndrome and two due to non-AES today [Friday],” he said. Tondon said the district magistrate has ordered a magisterial inquiry into the incident. “The report will be out in the next 24 hours,” he said.

Gorakhpur is Chief Minister Adityanath’s constituency.