22 Jul Deadly Coronavirus Hospital Fire in Iraq
At least 90 people were killed and over 100 injured in a fire likely caused by an oxygen tank explosion at a coronavirus hospital in Iraq’s southern city of Nassiriya, health officials and police have confirmed.
As rescuers combed the smoke-charred building in search of more bodies, Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi held urgent meetings with senior ministers and ordered the suspension and arrest of health and civil defense managers in Nassiriya, his office said in a statement.
The manager of the hospital was also suspended and ordered to be arrested, the statement added.
Already decimated by war and sanctions, Iraq’s healthcare system has struggled to cope with the coronavirus crisis, which has killed 17,592 people and infected more than 1.4 million.
“Health crews carried charred bodies out of the burning hospital while many patients were coughing from the rising smoke,” a Reuters reporter at the site of the fire said.
Health officials at Nassiriya said search operations at the al-Hussain coronavirus hospital were continuing after the fire was brought under control, but thick smoke was making it difficult to enter some of the burnt wards.
A medic at the hospital, who spoke to Reuters on condition of anonymity, said the building had lacked even basic safety measures. “The hospital lacks a fire sprinkler system or even a simple fire alarm,” he said.
The new ward had space for 70 beds and was built just three months ago, medical officials told the Associated Press news agency.
It was the second hospital fire in Iraq in three months. In April, a fire at a hospital in Baghdad killed more than 80 people.