Deadly fire tears through Baghdad Covid-19 hospital after oxygen tank explodes
At least 82 people died when a fire broke out Sunday in a coronavirus intensive care unit in the capital of Iraq, a country with long-dilapidated health infrastructure facing mounting Covid-19 cases. Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhemi suspended Health Minister Hassan al-Tamimi while he is questioned over the fire.
The fire, which wounded a further 110 people, started with an explosion caused by “a fault in the storage of oxygen cylinders”, medical sources told AFP.
It spread quickly, according to the civil defence, as “the hospital had no fire protection system and false ceilings allowed the flames to spread to highly flammable products”.
Iraq’s hospitals have been worn down by decades of conflict and poor investment, with shortages in medicines and hospital beds.
The incident sparked outrage on social media and the prime minister has called for an investigation into the cause of the blaze.
Apart from Health Minister Hassan al-Tamimi, Baghdad governor Mohammed Jaber and the head of the health department for eastern Baghdad, where the Ibn al-Khatib hospital is located, will also be questioned, said a statement from Kadhemi.
“The results of this investigation will be presented to the government within five days,” the statement added.
In the middle of the night, as dozens of relatives were at the bedsides of the 30 patients in the intensive care unit at Ibn al-Khatib hospital – reserved for the most severe Covid-19 cases in Baghdad – flames spread across multiple floors, another medical source said.
Videos on social media showed firefighters trying to extinguish flames at the hospital on the southeastern outskirts of the Iraqi capital, as patients and their relatives tried to flee the building.
“The majority of the victims died because they had to be moved and were taken off ventilators, while the others were suffocated by the smoke,” the civil defence said…..read more