BAGHDAD — The loss of life toll from an enormous hearth in a Baghdad hospital for coronavirus sufferers rose to 82 Sunday, as anxious family members looked for these lacking and the federal government suspended key well being officers for alleged negligence.
The blaze, described by one witness as “volcanoes of fireside,” swept by the intensive care unit of the Ibn al-Khatib hospital which tends completely to coronavirus sufferers with extreme signs. Officers stated the blaze, which additionally injured 110 folks, was set off by an exploding oxygen cylinder.
Maher Ahmed, a nurse, was referred to as at 9:45 p.m. Saturday night time, to come back to the scene and assist evacuate sufferers.
“I couldn’t have imagined it could be an enormous blaze like that,” he stated. “The flames overwhelmed the second ground isolation corridor of the hospital inside three to 4 minutes of the oxygen cylinder exploding, he stated. “Volcanoes of fireside.”
Most of these killed suffered extreme burns, he stated. Others had been overcome by smoke inhalation, unwilling to depart behind their coronavirus-afflicted family members hooked as much as ventilators. Ahmed stated these sufferers couldn’t be moved. “They’d have minutes to stay with out oxygen.”
He stated he and others watched helplessly as one affected person struggled to breathe, overwhelmed by smoke.
“Everybody has some duty for this incident. From common residents to (officers) on the high of the pyramid,” he stated.
Widespread negligence on the a part of well being officers is accountable for the lethal hearth, Iraq’s prime minister, Mustafa al-Kadhimi, stated on Sunday. Following a particular cupboard assembly to debate the incident, the federal government suspended key officers, together with the well being minister and the governor of Baghdad province. Different officers, together with the director of the Ibn al-Khatib Hospital, had been withdrawn from their posts.
It took firefighters and civil protection groups till the early hours of Sunday to place out the flames.
Among the many lifeless had been at the least 28 sufferers on ventilators battling extreme signs of the virus, tweeted Ali al-Bayati, a spokesman of the nation’s unbiased Human Rights Fee, a semi-official physique.
Paramedics carried the our bodies, many burned past recognition, to al-Zafaraniya Hospital, the place Ahmed stated forensics groups will try and determine them by matching DNA samples to family members.
By noon Sunday, family members had been nonetheless looking out anxiously for unaccounted family members.
“Please, two of my family members are lacking. … I’m going to die (with out information about them),” posted a younger lady on social media after a fruitless seek for her relations. “I hope somebody can assist us discover Sadi Abdul Kareem and Samir Abdul Kareem, they had been within the ICU.”
Roky Kareem, 30, was trying frantically for his good friend Riyam Rahman, a pharmacist, who was visiting her mom on the hospital. Riyam’s mom, Basima was admitted to Ibh al-Khatib 45 days in the past on account of problems from COVID-19.
“All we all know is that they had been within the room subsequent to the place the fireplace began,” he stated. “Her cellphone is switched off and her household has gone to each hospital looking for them.”
The fireplace got here as Iraq grapples with a extreme second wave of the coronavirus pandemic. Every day virus instances now common round 8,000, the best since Iraq started recording an infection charges early final yr. At the very least 15,200 folks have died of coronavirus in Iraq amongst a complete of at the least 100,000 confirmed instances.
Hours after the fireplace broke out, the prime minister convened a particular cupboard session. The cupboard suspended the well being minister, Hasan al-Tamimi, and ordered an investigation of him and key hospital officers accountable for overseeing security measures. The cupboard additionally suspended Baghdad’s governor over the incident.
The cupboard fired the director-general of the Baghdad well being division within the al-Rusafa space, the place the hospital is situated, in addition to the hospital director and its director of engineering and upkeep, in keeping with a press release from the Well being Ministry and the prime minister’s workplace.
“Negligence in such issues just isn’t a mistake, however against the law for which all negligent events should bear duty,” al-Kadhimi stated after a safety assembly Sunday.
U.N. envoy to Iraq Jeannine Hennis-Plasschaert expressed “shock and ache” over the incident in a press release and referred to as for stronger safety measures in hospitals.
On the Vatican, Pope Francis, who concluded a historic journey to Iraq final month, remembered those that perished within the blaze. Addressing folks gathered in St. Peter’s Sq. for his customary Sunday midday look, Francis talked about the information of the lifeless. “Let’s pray for them,’’ Francis stated.
Related Press author Abdulrahman Zeyad contributed to this report.