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At least 82 die in fire in Iraq hospital treating COVID-19 patients

By Allen Cone
At least 82 die in fire in Iraq hospital treating COVID-19 patients
A fire at Ibn Al-Khatib Hospital, in Baghdad, Iraq, on Sunday killed at least 82 people in an explosion of oxygen tanks to treat COVID-19 patients. Photo by Murtaja Lateef/EPA-EFE

April 25 (UPI) -- At least 82 people died and another 110 were injured in a hospital in Baghdad, Iraq, treating COVID-19 patients, the Interior Ministry said Sunday.

The fire started Saturday night on the second floor of the three-story Ibn al-Khatib Hospital where coronavirus patients were on ventilators and difficult to be moved, The Wall Street Journal reported. The blaze was caused by exploding oxygen tanks, two health officials told CNN.

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Twenty-eight victims were being treated in COVID-19 ICU wards, said Ali Akram al-Bayati of the Independent High Commission for Human Rights of Iraq. The IHCHR said the incident was a "crime against patients who were forced by the severity of the disease as a result of Covid-19 infection to be hospitalized."

Health workers attempted to evacuate patients, many with coronavirus, and relocate them to other hospitals.

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Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi declared a period of national mourning, and has launched an investigation, saying on Twitter those who are legally responsible will be held accountable and justice will be served.

He also suspended the minister of health, the governor of Baghdad and the director general of Al-Rasfah Health Department in Baghdad, referring three senior officials for investigation.

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And the hospital's staff in charge of management, maintenance and security are in custody.

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Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert, the special representative of the United Nations secretary-general for Iraq, called for "stronger protection measures to ensure that such a disaster cannot reoccur," according to a news release.

Last week, a fire in a hospital near Mumbai in India killed at least 13 people. Also, hospital fires in Romania in November and in January killed a total of at least 15 people.

Iraq has reported 15,257 COVID-19 deaths, including 40 Sunday, and 1,031,322 cases.

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