Over 70 coronavirus patients had to be evacuated after a fire broke out at a hospital located inside Mumbai’s Dreams Mall early on Friday, NDTV reported. At least 10 people have died in the accident, according to the city’s civic body, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation.

The identity of the deceased was not immediately known. Initially, reports alleged that two coronavirus patients had died in the blaze, a charge the Dreams Mall Sunrise Hospital denied. The hospital claimed that the deaths were not linked, and that the two patients died due to Covid-19.

“There was a fire in first floor of Dreams Mall, Bhandup, and the smoke reached up to the Sunrise Hospital located at the top floor,” the hospital said. “All fire alarms beeped and hence all patients were safely evacuated due to the smoke to the fire refuge area. There were two dead bodies (due to Covid), which were also evacuated. There was no casualty due to fire.”

However, later on Friday, the authorities at the Sunrise Hospital admitted that some patients were missing following the incident, according to NDTV. It said that efforts were on to identify and find them.

Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray apologised to the families of those who died in the fire. “I ask for forgiveness from the families of those who died,” he told reporters on Friday afternoon after visiting the site of the accident.

Thackeray said compensation of Rs 5 lakh will be given to the families of those who died, ANI reported. “Most of the patients who have died were on the ventilator,” he added. “I offer my condolences.”

The chief minister added that the fire did not break out in the hospital, but at some office or shop situated below it, PTI reported.

He added that the state government had last year allowed some hospitals to treat Covid-19 patients given the spread of the disease and said that the facility in the Bhandup mall was one of them. The permission was to end on March 31, Thackeray said.

The fire broke a little past midnight on Friday in the mall, which is located in Mumbai’s Bhandup locality. The hospital is situated on the third floor of the shopping complex. “A level-3 or level-4 fire broke out on the first floor of a mall at 12.30 am,” Deputy Commissioner of Police Prashant Kadam had said, according to ANI. At least 22 fire tenders were called in as fire fighting operations continued on Friday afternoon.

An investigation has been launched to ascertain the cause of the fire. “I’ve seen a hospital at [a] mall for the first time,” Mumbai Mayor Kishori Pednekar said. “Action to be taken. 70 patients including Covid-19 infected shifted to another hospital.”

She also expressed surprise at a hospital being operated inside a mall. “I have seen a hospital at a mall for the first time,” the mayor said, adding action will be taken if irregularities were found in allowing the facility to operate there, PTI reported.

Sunrise Hospital, however, maintained that it had been functioning “with all due compliances like fire license, nursing home licence”. “This hospital was started in exceptional circumstances of Covid last year and has helped in saving many patients from Covid deaths,” it added.

Meanwhile, the state’s former chief minister and Bharatiya Janata Party leader Devendra Fadnavis alleged that corruption in the BMC was responsible for the incident.

“Why no fire audit was performed before a Covid Care Centre was set up there?” Fadnavis asked, while speaking to reporters. He added that the Bombay High Court should take suo moto cognisance of the incident and investigate the matter.

Another BJP leader Kirit Somaiya said he would file a complaint of criminal negligence against the BMC in connection with the fire, suggesting that the mall was an “epitome of corruption”, PTI reported.

The incident came amid an increase in cases in Maharashtra. On Thursday, the state registered 35,952 new coronavirus cases – its highest one-day count since the beginning of the pandemic. With 111 new deaths, the toll went up to 53,795. The state’s overall count rose to 26,00,833. As many as 22,83,037 people in Maharashtra have recovered from the infection.

Mumbai registered 5,504 new coronavirus cases in a single day for the first time since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic in India. The new cases pushed the city’s total count to 3,80,115. Eleven more deaths took the city’s toll to 11,620. Civic body Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation’s data showed that the recovery rate in Mumbai was 88%, and the doubling rate of cases in the city stood at 75 days.

There are a total of 33,961 active cases in Maharashtra’s capital and 3,33,603 people have recovered from the disease.