Officials fear the death toll may rise after a fire in a hospital’s coronavirus isolation ward in the southern city of Nassiriya.
At least 52 people have been killed in a fire in a hospital’s coronavirus isolation ward in Iraq, the second such fatal fire in a COVID-19 unit in three months.
The fire broke out in Al-Hussein Hospital in the southern city of Nasiriyah late on Monday evening and was controlled by civil defense teams.
“The main reason behind the fire … is the explosion of oxygen tanks,” a medical source at the Health Directorate told AFP.
Early on Tuesday, Haider Al-Zamili, a spokesman for the local health authority, said 52 bodies had been recovered while 22 people were injured after “fire swept through the Covid isolation ward.”
“The victims died of burns and the search continues,” he added, noting that there were concerns that people might remain trapped inside the building.
The suite had 70 beds.
Health sources told Reuters news agency that the death toll may rise because many patients are still missing. They said two health workers were among the dead.
Health officials in Nassiriya said searches at the hospital were continuing, but the thick smoke made it difficult to enter some of the burning wards.
The footage circulated on the Internet showed thick clouds of smoke rising from the hospital buildings.
Mahmoud Abdel Wahed, Al-Jazeera correspondent from Baghdad, said that family members and residents of the city rushed to the scene.
“Many people went to the streets of Nasiriyah and in front of the hospital,” Abdel Wahed said, and said the hospital director had resigned.
A Reuters witness said angry relatives clashed with police and set two police vehicles on fire.
Corrupt officials must be held accountable for the fire and the killing of innocent patients. “Where’s my father’s body?” said a young man, searching among charred bodies wrapped in blankets in the hospital yard.
Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kazemi also declared a state of emergency in Dhi Qar province where Nasiriyah is located, according to Abdul Wahed.
Al-Kazemi said in a tweet that his office is holding an emergency meeting to discuss the “causes and repercussions” of the accident.
Earlier on Monday, a minor fire broke out at the headquarters of the Ministry of Health in Baghdad, but it was quickly contained and no fatalities were recorded.
Nasiriyah hospital fire is the second tragedy of its kind this year.
in April, Fire in Baghdad Hospital COVID-19 The explosion of poorly stored oxygen cylinders killed 82 people and injured 110 others.
Many of the victims were on ventilators being treated for the Covid-19 virus and suffered burns or suffocation in the resulting inferno that quickly spread through the hospital, as dozens of relatives visited patients in the intensive care unit.
The then Minister of Health, Hassan Al-Tamimi, resigned.
Iraq has recorded more than 1.4 million cases of coronavirus and more than 17,000 deaths.