Covid-19 hospital fire kills at least 82 in Baghdad

A fire at a hospital for Covid-19 patients in Badgá, Iraq left at least 82 dead and 110 injured in the early hours of Sunday (25).

The fire at Ibn al-Khatib hospital was caused by the explosion of an oxygen cylinder. Many victims were hospitalized with mechanical ventilation when the explosion occurred, causing the fire to spread rapidly at the scene.

A man visiting his brother told Reuters he saw people jumping out of windows to escape the flames. “I took my brother to the street. Then I went back and went to the top floor, which didn’t burn. I found a girl of about 19 choking, about to to die, “said Ahmed Zaki. “I put it on my shoulders and ran. People were jumping. Doctors were falling into cars. Everyone was jumping. And I kept going up and down,” Zaki continues.

The surviving patients were transferred to other hospitals, but many relatives waited next to Ibn al-Khatib for hours after the fire had stopped – without finding any family members.

Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi has declared three days of national mourning and ordered an investigation. “An incident like this is evidence of negligence. So I ordered that an investigation be started immediately and that the hospital director and his security and maintenance officials be detained, as well as other responsible, until we identify the negligent and hold him responsible. ” said in a note. Employees are interviewed.

The incident sparked outrage after medical sources attributed the tragedy to neglect. “Resignation of the Minister of Health” was the most discussed topic on Twitter in Iraq following the incident.

“The hospital did not have a fire protection system, and the suspended ceilings allowed the fire to spread to highly flammable products,” Civil Defense said. “Most of the victims died because they were moved without being connected to respirators, and others, suffocated by smoke.”

Videos on social media show firefighters trying to put out the flames as patients and their families try to leave the building. [O incêndio] it is a “crime”, denounced the governmental commission of the human rights of the country. “[Um crime] against patients exhausted by Covid who put their lives in the hands of the Ministry of Health and who, instead of being cured, died in the flames. “

The group called on the Iraqi prime minister to dismiss Health Minister Hassan al-Tamimi and bring him to justice. The same was demanded by the President of the Republic, Barham Saleh, and the head of Parliament, Mohamed al Halbusi. Later, the Prime Minister ordered the suspension of the Minister at least until the end of the investigation. The UN mission in Iraq has expressed “its pain” and declared itself “shocked” by the tragedy.

The Iraqi health care system has been ruined by decades of sanctions, wars and neglect. With a shortage of drugs, doctors and hospitals, the country surpassed one million cases of Covid-19 on Wednesday (21).

In contrast, its death toll is relatively low, likely because its population is one of the youngest in the world. According to the Ministry of Health, 1,025,288 Iraqis have been infected since the emergence of the coronavirus in the country in February 2020, of which 15,217 have died.

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