Several dead in fire at Baghdad hospital for Covid-19 patients
25 April, 2021, 19:57
Iraq's Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi fired several health officials; he attributed the fire to "negligence".
Iraq is battling a severe second wave of the coronavirus pandemic. The unit treats severe cases of COVID-19, and at least 28 of the patients killed were on ventilators, CBS reports.
But it has done little to improve existing infrastructure, and doctors have feared for the patients they treat in run-down wards where electricity cables have at times sparked visibly from the ceilings.
In Iraq, the health sector only accounts for two percent of the budget, despite the country being one of the most oil-rich in the world.
Major General Kadhim Bohan added that the fire has been put out.
He said his organization had repeatedly recommended that government buildings adopt better safety precautions.
"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", according to a statement released by Iraq's Health Ministry earlier Sunday. "There's no fire-escape plan, no fire extinguishers".
The fire triggered outrage on social media, with a hashtag demanding the health minister be sacked trending on Twitter, a demand echoed by the human rights commission.
According to a statement, al-Kadhimi "ordered an immediate investigation into the causes of the incident" and to "summon the hospital manager, the security manager [of the hospital] and those responsible for the maintenance of the hospital equipment".
Iraqis, some of whom evacuated the injured themselves, blamed Health Minister Hassan al-Tamimi, who was suspended Sunday, with calls for him to be sacked resounding across social media. But his future remained unclear.
The fire erupted on Saturday at the Ibn Khatib hospital in the Diyala Bridge area.
The UN top representative in Iraq, Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert, expressed "shock" at the tragedy and called "for stronger protection measures to ensure that such a disaster can not reoccur".
"The Special Representative calls for stronger protection measures to ensure that such a disaster can not reoccur", her statement read.
But many also said negligence and endemic corruption were to blame for the deadly inferno.
"The whole system is broken", the doctor who spoke on the condition of anonymity said.
Many ambulances were rushing towards the hospital, ferrying away those hurt by the fire, a Reuters photographer nearby said.
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