At least 82 people died and 110 were wounded after a fire broke out in the intensive care unit of a hospital treating severe coronavirus patients in Iraq’s capital city of Baghdad on Saturday night, AP reported.
The incident took place at Ibn al-Khatib hospital in the Diyala Bridge area after oxygen tanks exploded, two health officials at the facility told CNN.
The blaze raged across the second floor of the hospital and relatives of the patients scrambled to save their loved ones. At least 28 patients who died were on ventilators in Covid-19 Intensive Care Unit wards, according to Ali al-Bayati, a spokesperson of Iraq’s independent Human Rights Commission.
“Civil defense teams are still at the scene of the accident, investigating the causes that led to this fire, which caused the loss of the lives of many of patients and their companions,” said a statement released by Iraq’s Health Ministry.
Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi declared a period of national mourning for those who died and said the incident amounted to negligence. “I have directed an immediate investigation and questioning of the head of the hospital, the head of security and maintenance, and all those concerned,” Al-Kadhimi said in a statement. The prime minister also gave authorities 24 hours to give the results of their probe.
United Nations envoy to Iraq, Jeannine Hennis-Plasschaert, expressed his “shock and pain”. He said stronger measures should be put in place to protect patients.
Iraq is battling a severe second wave of the coronavirus pandemic. The country has recorded a total of 10,25,288 infections, including 15,217 deaths, the health ministry said on Saturday.