At least 23 dead in fire at Iraqi Covid hospital

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BAGHDAD (AFP) – At least 27 people were killed and 46 injured in a fire on Saturday (April 24) at a hospital in southeastern Baghdad that had been equipped to house Covid-19 patients, medical sources at three nearby hospitals said.

The fire at the Ibn Khatib hospital in the Diyala Bridge area of the Iraqi capital occurred after an accident caused an oxygen tank to explode, the sources said.

Many ambulances were rushing towards the hospital, ferrying away those hurt by the fire, a Reuters photographer nearby said.

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

The head of Iraqi civil defence unit said the fire broke out in the floor designated for the pulmonary intensive care unit and that 90 people have been rescued from the hospital out of 120, according to state news agency INA.

Negligence

The fire – which according to several sources was caused by negligence, often linked to endemic corruption in Iraq – immediately sparked anger on social media in the country.

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”.

In a statement, the government’s human rights commission said the incident was “a crime against patients exhausted by Covid-19 who put their lives in the hands of the health ministry and its institutions and instead of being treated, perished in flames”.

The commission called on Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhemi to sack Health Minister Hassan al-Tamimi and “bring him to justice”.

Mr Kadhemi said: “Such an incident is evidence of negligence and therefore I directed that an investigation be launched immediately and for the hospital’s manager and the heads of security and maintenance to be detained along with all those concerned until we identify those negligent and hold them accountable.”

Several victims’ families were still at the hospital hours after the fire had been put out, having been unable to locate them elsewhere.

By the early hours