Fireplace at Baghdad Hospital Filled with Covid Sufferers Kills at Least 82

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BAGHDAD — A fireplace sparked by an exploding oxygen cylinder killed no less than 82 individuals, most of them Covid-19 sufferers and their relations, at a Baghdad hospital late Saturday, a devastating instance of the pandemic’s affect on a rustic riddled with corruption and a legacy of decrepit infrastructure.

The hospital, a facility devoted to Covid-19 sufferers in one in all Baghdad’s poorer neighborhoods, had no smoke detectors, sprinkler system or fireplace hoses, stated Maj. Gen. Khadhim Bohan, the pinnacle of Iraq’s civil protection forces. The fireplace unfold rapidly due to flammable materials utilized in false ceilings within the intensive care ward, he added.

“If there had been smoke detectors, the state of affairs would have been completely completely different,” Common Bohan advised the state-run Iraqiya TV.

Medical doctors and rescuers described a chaotic scene on the hospital, crowded with relations of sufferers regardless of what was purported to be a ban on most guests to keep away from the unfold of an infection. Due to an absence of nursing employees, Iraqi hospitals, even in Covid wards, require a relative to assist take care of a affected person.

The lethal fireplace struck because the world struggled with the largest new weekly coronavirus case complete but, in a pandemic that has stretched effectively into its second yr. Whilst wealthier nations are quickly rolling out vaccines, extra nations than ever are fighting overwhelming caseloads and mounting dying tolls.

Iraq is battling an intense new wave of coronavirus infections. On Sunday, the nation reported 6,034 new coronavirus instances and 40 deaths, a determine that excludes those that died within the fireplace. Final week, the nation of virtually 40 million topped a couple of million instances because the pandemic started final yr.

Regardless of being one of many world’s greatest oil producers, Iraq can also be struggling a monetary disaster that economists attribute to a long time of mismanagement and dysfunctional establishments. Its well being care system was devastated by greater than a decade of U.S.-led worldwide sanctions towards Saddam Hussein beginning within the Nineties.

Since 2003, the federal government has spent billions of {dollars} to attempt to restore the well being care infrastructure, however the system stays dysfunctional: Family members should present oxygen and medicine in lots of hospitals.

Strained by big affected person counts, and heavy power use amid a necessity for extra oxygen provides and ventilators, hospitals have been struck by an rising variety of fires just like the one in Baghdad.

A European Fee report early this yr warned of the risks of hospital fires due to elevated oxygen use. It reported nearly 70 individuals had been killed in hospital fires world wide associated to supplemental oxygen final yr, together with 10 in Romania. A more moderen fireplace in April in Romania, the place intensive care items have additionally been overwhelmed, killed three sufferers.

An Iraqi well being ministry spokesman stated the Ibn al-Khatib hospital, the place the hearth broke out, was initially constructed within the Fifties and had been renovated final yr to refit it for treating Covid sufferers. He declined to touch upon why the renovation didn’t embody smoke detectors or a sprinkler system, saying that was now beneath investigation.

Among the many useless had been some older sufferers on ventilators who couldn’t transfer from their beds when the hearth began, officers stated.

One Fb discover listed 5 members of 1 household who died within the fireplace: a tribal sheikh being handled for Covid, his spouse and their three sons.

“It was a horrible scene,” stated Dr. Waad Adnan, a hospital resident who was within the physicians’ quarters subsequent to the hospital when the hearth began. “There was the sound of explosions after which big balls of fireside,” he added.

Dr. Adnan, who spoke outdoors the hospital, stated he noticed sufferers and their relations breaking home windows and throwing themselves from the second flooring to flee the blaze.

He stated the hearth was believed to have began when an oxygen cylinder caught fireplace after which exploded.

“The hospital employees did their greatest to show off the central oxygen, however the cylinders started exploding,” he stated.

A neighborhood tuk-tuk driver, Ahmed Hassan, stated he and different drivers rushed to the hospital to attempt to assist a pal’s aunt who was being handled for Covid, however once they arrived, they discovered she had already died.

“I couldn’t see something however heavy smoke and folks operating and shouting and charred our bodies,” stated Mr. Hassan, 19. “I heard screaming and noticed smoke and folks cursing the hospital employees for not serving to the sufferers.”

He stated he and different younger males spent an hour operating out and in of the hospital making an attempt to rescue sufferers whereas the hearth burned. Some had been capable of stroll, whereas others, he stated, he pulled from their beds.

“I discovered one of many individuals who was not capable of transfer and I yelled, ‘This man continues to be alive, we will save him!’” he stated. The older man clung to him and requested him to not go away him. He stated, “‘Please, that is my cellphone. If I die inform my household I forgive them for all the things.’”

The person died on Sunday.

Mr. Hassan stated he helped rescue a nurse in addition to different sufferers and their relations. Iraq’s pharmaceutical affiliation stated no less than one pharmacist died within the blaze.

Prime Minister Mustafa al-Khadimi known as the hearth against the law and ordered an investigation inside 24 hours into attainable negligence on the hospital.

He ordered the detention for questioning of the well being director for the Rasfah space of Baghdad, the place the hospital is. The hospital’s director and its head of engineering and upkeep had been additionally ordered detained.

President Barham Salih stated the tragedy was a “results of the gathered destruction of state establishments attributable to corruption and mismanagement,” in a put up on Twitter.

“Displaying ache and sympathy with our martyrs and injured sons is just not sufficient with out strenuous accountability for the negligent.”

Nermeen al-Mufti and Awadh al-Taiee contributed reporting.

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