18 dead in fire at COVID-19 hospital in Gujarat

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At least 16 COVID-19 patients and two nurses were killed in a fire that engulfed the intensive care unit of a hospital in Bharuch, Gujarat, in the early hours of Saturday.

Also read: 14 die in Andhra Pradesh due to snag in oxygen supply

Officials said the fire broke out around 1 a.m. in the ICU of the four-storey Welfare Hospital, where more than 50 COVID-19 patients were undergoing treatment. There were more than 27 patients in the ICU, including some on ventilator support, they said.

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The police and the fire brigade officials rushed to the spot and brought the fire under control within an hour. Local people and hospital staff helped in the evacuation of patients. The police said the deaths were caused due to burns and asphyxiation.

“After reaching on the spot, the policemen launched the rescue works and broke the glass windows to rescue the patients. More than 20 patients were rescued and were rushed to other private hospitals in nearby areas,” a press release issued by the district police said.

The cause of the fire is yet to be ascertained, officials said, adding that the deceased included 11 women and seven men.

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Expressing grief over the incident, Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani announced an ex gratia of ₹4 lakh each to the kin of the deceased. He also appointed two senior bureaucrats — Additional Chief Secretary (labour and employment) Vipul Mittra and Commissioner (municipalities) Rajkumar Beniwal — to conduct an inquiry into the incident.

The incident comes less than a week after five persons were killed in a fire at a private COVID-19 hospital in Surat.

“Pained by the loss of lives due to a fire at a hospital in Bharuch. Condolences to the bereaved families,” Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Twitter.

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“Pained by the loss of lives due to a fire at a hospital in Bharuch. Condolences to the bereaved families,” Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Twitter.

A statement from the Chief Minister’s Office said Mr. Rupani was also contemplating setting up a judicial inquiry into the incident.

Welfare Hospital, located on Jambusar Bypass Road, has been treating COVID-19 patients since the beginning of the pandemic last year.

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In similar hospital accidents in the State in 2020, eight persons died in Ahmedabad and six in Rajkot.

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