Iraqis mourn relatives who died in a massive fire which engulfed a coronavirus isolation ward of Al Hussein Hospital, during their funeral in Najaf, on Tuesday. AFP
Fires in hospitals, which are supposed to help a patient recover not die, are as much tragic incidents as deplorable. Unfortunately, in this regard Baghdad seems to have a sorry record.
In April, an oxygen tank blast at a hospital for coronavirus patients in Baghdad claimed at least 82 lives; several people even jumped out of the windows of the burning building.
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Now, in what looks like a shocking repeat, at least 92 people were feared dead after an oxygen tank exploded at a hospital for COVID-19 patients in Iraq’s southern city of Nassiriyah.
The death toll in coronavirus hospital fire has risen to 92 after some wounded people died from severe burns, state news agency INA and health officials said on Tuesday.
More than 100 others were injured in the blaze, which an investigation showed began when sparks from faulty wiring spread to an oxygen tank that then exploded.
A man stands amid the gutted remains of a ward in Al Hussein hospital after the fire. AFP
Devastated health workers rushed in to remove the badly affected patients out of the wards while many patients were coughing a lot because of the smoke.
Operations to search for more possible survivors of the Al-Hussain coronavirus hospital were under way after the fire was brought under control.
However, the pall of thick smoke was hindering such actions.
Many patients were trapped inside the coronavirus wards and workers at the hospital were desperately trying to take them out.
Furious relatives of the patients clashed with police, and set two police cars ablaze.
Mourners attend the funeral of victims of the fire in Najaf on Tuesday. Reuters
In an instant crackdown on the culprits, Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi held an emergency meet on the issue and ordered the suspension and arrest of health and civil defence managers in Nassiriya.
He also ordered the arrest of the manager of the hospital.
Already crumbling under the onslaught of war and sanctions, Iraq's healthcare system is creaking under the weight of the coronavirus crisis, which has killed more than 17,000 people and infected over a million.
A hospital guard called Ali Muhsin, who was helping carry wounded patients out of the blaze, said he heard the sound of a huge explosion inside the coronavirus wards and then saw the fire spread very fast.
Five years ago, 13 babies born prematurely were consumed in a blaze that broke out in a maternity ward in Baghdad’s Yarmuk hospital.
A fire sparked by an oxygen tank explosion killed at least 82 people and injured 110 at a hospital in Baghdad that had been equipped to house COVID-19 patients, an Interior Ministry spokesman said on Sunday.
Separately, a Katyusha rocket landed near the fortified Green Zone, Iraq’s seat of government, police officials said. There were no casualties from the incident. Last week two rockets landed in Tigris river and a stadium, both near the Green Zone.
At least 342 people have died since demonstrations began Oct. 1, when thousands of Iraqis, mostly youth, took to the streets to decry corruption and poor services.
The attack was among the deadliest since Oct. 1, when thousands of Iraqis took to the streets calling for sweeping political reforms and the end of Iran's influence in Iraqi affairs. Security forces regularly use live rounds and tear gas to disperse the demonstrations, leading to heavy casualties.
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