52 People Died & 22 Wounded: Iraq Covid Ward Fire

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Fifty-two killed, 22 wounded in Iraq covid ward fire due to explosion of oxygen tanks. People were scrutinising the damage at the site where a fire broke out at al-Hussain coronavirus hospital in Nassiriya, Iraq. People checked the damage when a fire broke out at al-Hussain coronavirus hospital in Nassiriya, Iraq.

The fire broke out at the Al-Hussein hospital in the southern Iraqi city of Nasiriyah late Monday and was brought under control by local civil defence forces. A medical source with the health directorate said that the “main reason behind the fire… was the explosion of oxygen tanks”.

Haydar al-Zamili, the local health authority’s spokesperson, said early Tuesday, 52 bodies were retrieved, and another 22 people were wounded in the latest toll after the fire had “ripped through the Covid isolation ward”.

“The victims died of burns, and the search is continuing,” he added, noting that there were fears people could still be trapped inside the building. The ward had space for 70 beds.

The deadly hospital fire is the second before-mentioned fire in Iraq in three months. Outside the hospital, dozens of young demonstrators complained. “The parties have burned us,” they screamed in harmony.

Rescue teams were employing a heavy crane to lift the charred and melted remains of the portion of the city’s al-Hussain hospital, where COVID-19 patients were treated as relatives gathered nearby. A medical person at the hospital, who refused to provide his name and whose shift finished a few hours before the fire broke out, said the lack of basic safety standards meant it was a disaster in the making.

The fire also prompted frantic calls on social media for the resignation of top officials. In addition, local authorities inflicted a state of emergency in the Dhi Qar Governorate and directed doctors on leave to treat the injured.

Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhemi held an emergency meeting with ministers and security heads to “find out the causes” of the fire, and his office tweeted Tuesday. Dhi Qar’s health chief and the hospital’s director were detained and questioned by police. Kadhemi also sent emergency medical aid to the southern governorate.

“The catastrophe of Al-Hussein Hospital is definite proof of the crash to protect the subsistence of Iraqis, and it is the moment to put a conclusion to this,” Mohamed al-Halbousi, Iraq’s Parliament Speaker, wrote on Twitter. Iraq’s interior ministry said on Facebook that the fire tore through temporary structures erected next to the main building but did not specify the cause.

In April, a fire at a Baghdad Covid-19 hospital killed 82 and injured 110, sparked by the explosion of poorly stored oxygen cylinders. Several victims of the April fire were on respirators. They were burned or suffocated in the resulting inferno that spread rapidly through the hospital, where dozens of relatives visited patients in the intensive care unit.

The April fire led to extensive anger, resulting in the suspension and consequent resignation of then health minister Hassan al-Tamimi. Iraq — where the oil-reliant economy is still recuperating from decades of war and insurgency and where many citizens live in poverty — has recorded over 1.4 million coronavirus cases and higher than 17,000 deaths.

Much of the country’s health infrastructure is dilapidated, and investment in public services is limited by endemic corruption. Since the coronavirus vaccine rollout began in March, Iraqi health authorities have fully inoculated. However, it is only around one per cent of the country’s approximately 40 million people.

A minor fire broke out earlier on Monday at the health ministry’s headquarters in Baghdad, but it was immediately contained with no fatalities registered.

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