At least 14 coronavirus patients admitted to a hospital in Virar in Maharashtra’s Palghar district died after a fire broke out in the medical facility on Friday, NDTV reported. All the deceased were in the intensive care unit.
“Around 90 patients were admitted at the hospital at the time of the incident,” said Dilip Shah, chief executive officer of the Vijay Vallabh Hospital, where the fire broke out at 3 am.
An official said that there were 18 patients in the ICU, reported PTI. The official added that other patients in the hospital were not affected as the fire was confined to the ICU.
District Disaster Control Cell chief Vivekanand Kadam told PTI that the incident took place after an explosion in the air conditioning unit of the ICU. He added that the firefighters from the Vasai Virar Municipal Corporation doused the flames within an hour.
Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray directed the administration to investigate if fire safety measures in the hospital were adequate, his office said in a statement. “He has directed that other patients undergoing treatment should not be harmed and should be relocated immediately,” the statement said. “After learning about the fire, the chief minister himself has spoken to the concerned officials and asked them to first of all give priority to extinguishing the fire completely and ensure that treatment on other patients continues.”
The chief minister also announced financial assisstance of Rs 5 lakh to the family of the deceased and Rs 1 lakh to those injured, reported The Hindu.
Maharashtra Health Minister Rajesh Tope said Thackeray has ordered an inquiry into the incident. State Home Minister Dilip Walse Patil said the director general of police would conduct an in-depth investigation into the fire at the hospital.
Patil called the incident “extremely unfortunate and painful”. “The DGP has been directed to conduct an in-depth probe into the incident,” the minister said, according to PTI.
The incident came two days after 24 people died when oxygen supply was affected due to a leakage in the main storage tank of a hospital in Nashik city in Maharashtra. The incident took place at Zakir Hussain Hospital and led to oxygen supply being stopped for around 30 minutes.
Earlier on March 26, ten people had died after a fire broke out at a hospital located inside Mumbai’s Dreams Mall. Over 70 coronavirus patients had to be evacuated from the medical facility.
Maharashtra is the worst affected state by the coronavirus pandemic in the country. On Thursday, Maharashtra recorded 67,103 new cases, pushing the state’s tally to 40,94,840 since the pandemic began in January 2020. The toll rose by 568 to 62,479.
PM announces compensation for kin of deceased
Various political leaders expressed their condolences on social media. Prime Minister Narendra Modi approved an ex-gratia of Rs 2 lakh each from the Prime Minister’s National Relief Fund for the relatives of the deceased and Rs 50,000 for those seriously injured.
“Saddened by the loss of lives due to tragic fire at a Hospital in Palghar, Maharashtra,” tweeted Union Defence Minister Rajnath Singh. “My condolences to the bereaved families. Praying for the speedy recovery of the injured.”
Bharatiya Janata Party leader Devendra Fadnavis demanded a high-level inquiry into the incident. BJP leader Kirit Somaiya demanded the resignation of state health minister Rajesh Tope. He said that experts should conduct oxygen and fire audit of Covid-19 centers.
Union minister Nitin Gadkari offered his condolences to the families of the deceased.
“It’s like the world is crashing down around us,” tweeted Aam Aadmi Party leader Preeti Sharma Menon. “Am so sorry for those who lost their loved ones in the Virar hospital fire.”