Union Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla has asked the chief secretaries of the states and Union territories to step up fire safety measures at hospitals after five coronavirus patients died in a blaze at a private medical centre in Gujarat’s Rajkot on Friday, ANI reported on Monday. He expressed concern over the states not complying with safety measures.

Bhalla told the states that they had to take “utmost precaution” to avoid accidents during the crucial phase of India’s fight against the coronavirus crisis. “I would like to draw your attention towards occurrence of fire incidents in hospitals/nursing homes in recent past,” he wrote. “Non-adherence of fire safety measures by authorities is a matter of concern.”

The home secretary asked the states to re-examine fire safety measures at all hospitals and nursing homes to ensure that accidents don’t happen again. Bhalla also instructed the states to submit an action taken report to the home ministry at the earliest, The Hindu reported.

Also read: SC ‘shocked’ about Gujarat hospital fire in which five people died, takes cognisance of it

The fire broke out around 12.30 am in the intensive unit care ward on the first floor of the four-storey Uday Shivanand Hospital in Anand Bungalow Chowk area. Nearly 31 patients were admitted in the hospital. Gujarat chief minister said that 26 patients were rescued and shifted to other facilities, while five patients died.

The police on Sunday booked five people for the fire at the Uday Shivanand Hospital in Rajkot, PTI reported. The accused included the chairperson and the executive director of Gokul Healthcare, the company which operates the hospital.

The police also found that the hospital violated several safety norms. The emergency gate of the ICU, which could have been used for rescue operations, was found to blocked. The staff was also not trained to handle fire safety equipment.

On Friday, the Supreme Court took suo motu cognisance of the fire and directed the Centre and the Gujarat government to file a report on the matter by December 1. The court stated this was not the first fire incident at a designated hospital to treat coronavirus patients and rebuked the state government for not taking adequate precautions.

In August, eight coronavirus patients had died in a fire at a private Covid-19 designated hospital in Ahmedabad.