New deadly fire in a hospital treating Covid-19 patients in Iraq. At least 52 patients were killed on Monday (July 12) in a fire that ravaged the SARS-CoV-2 patient unit at a facility in Nassiriya, in the south of the country, authorities said. two and a half months after a similar tragedy that left more than 80 people dead in a Baghdad hospital.
The provisional death toll stands at 52 dead and 22 injured, local health authority spokesman Haydar al-Zamili told Agence France-Presse (AFP), adding that the Covid-19 unit of the Al-Hussein hospital in flames had 70 beds.
Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kazimi urgently convened overnight ministers and security officials to “Examine the causes and consequences of the fire”, said his cabinet, adding on Twitter that the director of the hospital and the head of civil defense of the province of Dhi Qar, on which the city of Nassiriya depends, were being questioned by the police. In addition, a state of emergency has been declared in Dhi Qar province.
Scenes of chaos
“The victims are burned to death and research continues” to find survivors, al-Zamili said. Videos posted on social media showed scenes of chaos and huge swirls of black smoke billowing from the facility.
According to a source from the provincial health department, the fire was caused by the explosion of oxygen cylinders. This scenario is an identical repetition of the tragedy that occurred last April in a Baghdad hospital, which left more than 80 dead.
In Nassiryia, hundreds of people gathered at the scene to help firefighters and rescuers. According to a medical source, 20 patients were evacuated from the burning establishment. The Iraqi Interior Ministry said on Facebook that the fire started from temporary structures erected near the establishment, but did not specify the origin of the incident.
“The policies are burning us! “
The tragedy immediately provoked angry reactions in Nassiriya, where hundreds of people gathered in front of the hospital shouting: “The political parties are burning us! “. “The disaster at Al-Hussein Hospital is clear evidence of [l’échec] to protect the lives of Iraqis and it is time to put an end to this catastrophic failure ”Iraqi Parliament Speaker Mohammed al-Halboussi tweeted, adding that MPs would take up the matter on Tuesday. “This is yet another humanitarian disaster in Iraq. The Prime Minister should resign immediately ”, tweeted for his part an Iraqi doctor, Doctor Abdullah al-Bayati.
In April, a similar tragedy killed more than 80 people in the fire at a hospital dedicated to Covid-19 in Baghdad. This tragedy was caused by a series of negligence which had aroused the anger of the Iraqis and led to the resignation of the Minister of Health. Oxygen cylinders stored without respecting safety conditions had exploded and flames had devoured non-fireproof false ceilings for hours.
Most Iraqi hospitals are dormant and the health system has been dilapidated for years, plagued by economic hardship and corruption. On Monday, a fire broke out at the health ministry in Baghdad and was quickly brought under control, without causing any casualties.
Iraq has more than 1.4 million people infected with the coronavirus and the epidemic has claimed more than 17,000 lives.