Ten infants died in a fire at a hospital in Maharashtra’s Bhandara district early on Saturday, PTI reported. The fire broke out at the Sick Newborn Care Unit of the Bhandara District General Hospital around 2 am.
Civil surgeon Pramod Khandate told ANI that seven babies had been rescued from the neonatal care unit. Preliminary inquiry suggests that a short circuit led to the fire, India Today reported. “In the wee hours of Saturday morning, a nurse noticed smoke emanating from this ward,” the civil surgeon was quoted as saying by the news channel. “The hospital staff tried their best to save the children.”
Khandate said the rescued babies were doing good, and have been shifted to another room, according to The Hindu. “We also shifted the patients of the nearby wards – ICU, labour room and dialysis patients – to another room.”
An unidentified doctor at the hospital told PTI that the fatalities included infants between one and three months. Another doctor said it was a nurse who first saw smoke coming out of the neonatal section. The nurse alerted doctors and other staff members, who immediately reached the ward.
The fire brigade managed to rescue seven babies from the unit’s inbound ward but could not rescue the other 10. Three of them died of burn injuries, while seven others died of suffocation caused by smoke, Maharashtra Health Minister Rajesh Tope said, according to News18.
The health minister said Rs 5 lakh compensation would be paid to family members of each of the deceased infant.
Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray spoke to Tope and ordered an inquiry into the incident. “The Chief Minister has also spoken to the Collector and the Superintendent of Police and they have also been directed to investigate,” Thackeray’s office said.
Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar has ordered a safety audit of new born care units of all government hospitals after the incident. Home Minister Anil Deshmukh has asked the district officials to submit a report.
The government also announced financial aid of Rs 5 lakh for the families of the infants killed in the fire, ANI reported.
The National Commission for Protection of Child Rights, meanwhile, issued a notice to the Bhandara district commissioner, asking for a report of the action taken within 48 hours.
PM Narendra Modi, ministers express grief
Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressed grief over the deaths. “Heart-wrenching tragedy in Bhandara, Maharashtra, where we have lost precious young lives,” he tweeted. “My thoughts are with all the bereaved families. I hope the injured recover as early as possible.”
Union Home Minister Amit Shah and Health Minister Harsh Vardhan also offered their condolences to the families. Shah called the incident “very unfortunate”, and that he was “pained beyond words”. “My thoughts and condolences are with bereaved families,” he added. “May God give them the strength to bear this irreparable loss.”
Vardhan tweeted: “Spoke to Maharashtra Health Minister Shri Rajesh Tope regarding the most unfortunate incident at Bhandara district hospital where innocent children died in a fire incident. Deepest condolences to the families. Prayers for the safety of innocent newborns who could be rescued.”
Maharashtra Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari also mourned the deaths. “Extremely saddened to know about the most tragic incident of fire at Bhandara Civil Hospital,” he tweeted. “Convey my deepest condolences to the families of the innocent children who lost their lives.”
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi requested the government to provide all possible help to the affected families. “The unfortunate incident of fire at Bhandara District General Hospital in Maharashtra is extremely tragic,” he tweeted. “My condolences to the families of the children who lost their lives.”
Former Chief Minister and Bharatiya Janata Party leader Devendra Fadnavis said the incident was “very painful”. “The government should carry out a thorough inquiry into the incident and initiate action against those who are responsible for the death of 10 infants,” he said, according to PTI. “It is a very painful accident.”