At least 58 people died and dozens were injured when a fire broke out at a Covid-19 hospital in Baghdad, the Iraqi capital following the explosion of oxygen tanks at the hospital equipped to treat patients on Saturday.
The incident has sparked outrage and angry calls for the sacking of officials in a country with long-dilapidated health infrastructure.
The blaze at Baghdad’s Ibn al-Khatib hospital started with an explosion caused by “a fault in the storage of oxygen cylinders”, medical sources reported.
Flames spread quickly across multiple floors in the middle of the night, as dozens of relatives were at the bedsides of the 30 patients in the hospital’s intensive care unit where most severe Covid-19 cases are treated, a medical source said.
“The hospital had no fire protection system and false ceilings allowed the flames to spread to highly flammable products,” the civil defence said.
“The majority of the victims died because they had to be moved and were taken off ventilators, while the others were suffocated by the smoke,” it added.
At least 23 deaths were reported in the immediate aftermath of the fire, with an official toll of 58 announced Sunday on Twitter by Ali Bayati, a member of Iraq’s Human Rights Commission.