Published: Sun, April 25, 2021

At least 27 dead in fire at Baghdad hospital for Covid patients

At least 27 dead in fire at Baghdad hospital for Covid patients

Among the dead were at least 28 patients on ventilators battling severe symptoms of the virus, tweeted Ali al-Bayati, a spokesman of the country's independent Human Rights Commission.

Officials are still trying to figure out how many were wounded in the explosion at Ibn al-Khatib Hospital, but they say there are "many".

The fire came as Iraq grapples with a severe second wave of the coronavirus pandemic.

The total number of people infected with Covid-19 in Iraq is 102,5288 including 15,217 deaths, the health ministry said on Saturday.

People from all over Iraq are referred to the hospital in southeastern Baghdad, including many with Covid-19.

Iraq's prime minister fired key hospital officials Sunday hours after the fire broke out.

Firefighters rushed to put out the flames and evacuate patients at the Ibn al-Khatib hospital in the Iraqi capital.

Numerous victims were on respirators and were suffocated or burned in the smoke and flames when the blaze at eastern Baghdad's Ibn al-Khatib hospital started with an explosion caused by "a fault in the storage of oxygen cylinders", medical sources said.

He said he and others watched helplessly as one patient struggled to breathe amid the smoke.

Patients not injured in the incident were also being transferred out of the hospital, the medical sources said.

Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhemi suspended Health Minister Hassan al-Tamimi - who is backed by the powerful Shiite leader Moqtada Sadr - amid angry calls on social media for him to be sacked, as part of a probe that would also include the governor of Baghdad.

The fire - caused by negligence often linked to endemic corruption in Iraq, according to several sources - sparked anger, with a hash-tag demanding the health minister be sacked trending on Twitter.

Baghdad Governor Mohammed Jaber called on the health ministry "to establish a commission of enquiry so that those who did not do their jobs may be brought to justice". "I have directed an immediate investigation and questioning of the head of the hospital, the head of security and maintenance, and all those concerned", Al-Kadhimi said in a statement.

United Nations envoy to Iraq Jeannine Hennis-Plasschaert expressed "shock and pain" over the incident in a statement and called for stronger protection measures in hospitals.

Rather than go to overcrowded or run-down hospitals, patients who can afford it have often set up oxygen tanks for their use at home.

Although Iraq has received numerous vaccines, through government purchases and foreign donations, demand for the shots remains sluggish.

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