Dozens killed as fire breaks Iraq’s COVID neighborhood Coronavirus pandemic news

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Officials fear it could increase the death toll after it caught fire in the coronavirus isolation room at the southern city hospital in Nasiriyah.

At least 52 people have died in a fire in the coronavirus isolation room of a hospital in Iraq, the second deadly fire in a COVID-19 unit in three months.

The fire broke out at Al-Hussein Hospital in the southern city of Nasiriya on Monday afternoon and was monitored by civil defense teams.

A medical source from the health directorate told the AFP news agency that “the main reason behind the fire … was the explosion of oxygen tanks”.

Haydar al-Zamili, a spokesman for the local health authority, said early Tuesday that 52 bodies had been recovered while 22 people had been injured after the fire “had ripped Covid’s isolation room apart”.

“The victims died from burns and the search continues,” he added, noting that there were fears he could still be trapped inside the building.

The room had 70 beds.

Health sources told Reuters news agency that the death toll could rise as many patients were still missing. Two health workers were among the dead, they said.

Nasiriya’s health officials said research operations at the hospital continued, but thick smoke made it difficult to get into some of the burned rooms.

The videos show flames tearing the building apart and creating plumes of black smoke [Screengrab from videoa/AP]

Shared videos online showed thick clouds of smoke coming out of the hospital buildings.

Mahmoud Abdelwahed, of Al Jazeera, reported from Baghdad that family members and city residents had rushed to the scene.

“A lot of people have taken to the streets in Nasiriya and in front of the hospital,” said Abdelwahed, who said the hospital manager had resigned.

An angry relative clashed with police and set fire to two police vehicles, a Reuters witness said.

“Corrupt officials must respond to the fire and kill innocent patients. Where is my father’s body, ”a young man said as he searched among charred bodies wrapped in blankets in the hospital courtyard.

Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi also declared a state of emergency in the Dhi Qar governorate, where Nasiriya is located, Abdelwahed reported.

In a tweet, al-Kadhimi said his office was holding an emergency meeting to discuss “the causes and repercussions” of the incident.

Earlier on Monday, a minor fire broke out at the headquarters of the health ministry in Baghdad, but it was quickly contained and no fatalities were reported.

The blaze at Nasiriya Hospital is the second tragedy this year.

In April, a fire at a COVID-19 hospital in Baghdad caused by the explosion of poorly stored oxygen cylinders, killed 82 people and 110 injured.

Many of the victims were respirators to treat COVID-19 and were burned or suffocated in the resulting hell that quickly spread through the hospital, where dozens of relatives visited patients in the intensive care unit.

The then Minister of Health, Hassan al-Tamimi, resigned.

Iraq has reported more than 1.4 million cases of coronavirus and more than 17,000 deaths.





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