The Iraqi health minister was promptly suspended and referred to an investigation.
Qatar’s Amir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani sent Iraq’s President Barham Salih and Prime Minister Mustafa Al Kadhimi condolences following a deadly fire at the Ibn Al-Khatib hospital, south of Baghdad.
82 people killed
Horrific aftermath of #Covid patients being wheeled out as firefighters scrambled to extinguish flames while people fled the building. The fire broke out in ICU where 30 patients were being treated#Iraq #مستشفى_ابن_الخطيب pic.twitter.com/Z885YuIvOd
— Osama Bin Javaid (@osamabinjavaid) April 25, 2021
The devastating fire erupted on Saturday after an oxygen tank exploded at the facility where dozens of Covid-19 patients were being treated. The blaze led to the death of at least 82 people and injured up to 110 others.
Witnesses saw people attempting to escape through the windows of the burning building, Reuters reported.
“I carried my brother out to the street. Then I came [back] and went up to the last floor which wasn’t burning. I found a girl suffocating, about 19 years old…she was about to die,” Ahmed Zaki told Reuters.
“I took her on my shoulders and I ran down…doctors jumped onto the cars. Everyone was jumping. And I kept going up from there, got people and came down,” he added.
The Iraqi health ministry said more than 200 patients were saved from the fire though dozens of families flocked to the scene to find relatives after the blaze was extinguished.
Al Kadhimi blamed the incident on negligence from Iraqi Health Minister Hassan Al-Tamimi, promptly suspending him and referring him for investigation. The hospital’s manager as well as the heads of security and maintenance were also arrested.
“Such an incident is evidence of negligence and therefore I directed that an investigation be launched immediately,” said the Iraqi prime minister in a statement.
Iraq’s human rights commission also describe the incident as a crime against patients.
“[The fire is] a crime against patients exhausted by Covid-19 who put their lives in the hands of the health ministry and its institutions and instead of being treated, perished in flames.”
The tragedy comes as Iraq’s health system struggles with the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, which has so far killed more than 15,000 people and infected more than 1 million.