Hospital fire in India kills at least 11 in COVID-19 ICU

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Nov. 6 (UPI) — A fire in a hospital in India on Saturday killed at least 11 people in its COVID-19 intensive care unit.

The fire broke out at 11 a.m. on the ground floor of the hospital in Maharashtra’s Ahmednagar district, where 17 patients were admitted to the COVID-19 ICU, including 15 on ventilator or oxygen support, the Hindustan Times reported. The ICU was set up about 18 months ago.

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“Saving them was a priority,” a fire brigade official told Hindustan Times regarding the 15 people on ventilator or oxygen support. “But due to their critical condition, to remove the oxygen support and bring them out was a tough decision.”

“After discussion, we decided to bring them out anyhow and later put them back on oxygen or other support systems,” he added.

All patients in the COVID-19 ICU were injured and were shifted to another room, fire brigade officials said.

Firefighters were able to bring the fire under control by 1:30 p.m., according to officials.

Ten patients died in the blaze and another was critically injured and died after being rescued.

The hospital has a ground floor, which only housed COVID-19 patients, and a second floor.

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Officials confirmed the fire broke out on the ground floor and no casualties were reported on the second floor.

Earlier in the year, a fire brigade department audit found that the hospital had fire extinguishers, but lacked other necessary fire safety equipment, such as a sprinkler system.

Shankar Misal, chief fire officer of the Ahmednagar Municipal Corporation, said the necessary equipment was not installed because of a lack of funds.

The district’s administrative service officer, Dr. Rajendra Bhosale, said “a short circuit seems to be the possible cause of the incident.”

Union Minister of State for Health Dr. Bharati Pawar expressed his condolences, and said the state government has formed a six-member committee to probe the fire incident in the hospital, headed by Divisional Commissioner Radhakrishna Ghame, ANI reported.

Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, who also expressed his condolences, ordered a probe into the incident.

The state’s health minister Rajesh Tope announced an ex gratia amount of $6,739 for the relatives of each of those who were killed in the fire.

India Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressed grief over the victims and wished a speedy recovery for the injured in a statement on Twitter.

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“Anguished by the loss of lives due to a fire in a hospital in Ahmednagar, Maharashtra,” Modi said in the statement. “Condolences to the bereaved families. May the injured recover at the earliest.”