A similar incident took place in April this year, in which at least 82 people were killed.
Qatar’s Amir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani sent condolences to Iraq’s President Barham Salih and and Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi following a deadly hospital blaze that broke out at a Covid-19 hospital.
“The Amir sent Tuesday a cable of condolences to President of the Republic of Iraq and Prime Minister on the victims of the fire that broke out at Al-Hussein Teaching Hospital in Dhi Qar governorate, wishing the injured a speedy recovery,” state-owned Qatar News Agency reported.
The raging fire engulfed Al-Hussein Teaching Hospital south Iraq’s Al Nasiriyah, where coronavirus patients were being treated before an oxygen tank exploded at the facility on Monday.
Iraqi Health officials on Tuesday said the death toll had increased to 92 and recorded more than 100 injuries.
Rescue teams used a heavy crane to remove debris at the scene of the incident as efforts to recover missing patients continued. So far, more than 20 corpses are awaiting DNA tests to determine their identity.
The devastating blaze triggered accusations of negligence from the families of the victims as well as medics. This is the second such incident to take place since April, where at least 82 people were killed at the Ibn Al-Khatib hospital, another coronavirus facility.
“No quick response to the fire, not enough firefighters. Sick people burned to death. It’s a disaster,” Mohammed Fadhil told Reuters as he waited to receive his bother’s body.
A medic at the Al-Hussein hospital told Reuters on the condition of anonymity that the lack of basic safety measures made the incident inevitable.
“The hospital lacks a fire sprinkler system or even a simple fire alarm,” he said.
“We complained many times over the past three months that a tragedy could happen any moment from a cigarette stub but every time we get the same answer from health officials: ‘we don’t have enough money’.”
Local civil defence authority head Salah Jabbar also said that the hospital was built using lightweight panels to separate the wards, contributing to the quick spread of flames.
“What should I say after losing my family,” said Imad Hashim, who lost his mother, sister-in-law and niece.
“No point demanding anything from a failed government. Three days and this case will be forgotten like others.”
The head of Iraq’s semi-official Human Rights Commission Ali Bayati said the fire was an indication of the ineffectiveness of safety measures in place across the country amid a dwindling health system that has only worsened by years of war.
“To have such a tragic incident repeated few months later means that still no (sufficient) measures have been taken to prevent them,” said Bayati.
Meanwhile, PM Al-Kadhimi ordered the arrest of health and civil defence managers in the city on Monday. Similarly, Al Nassiriya court said it ordered the arrest of 13 local officials involved in the incident.
Findings from the ongoing investigation are expected to be announced within a week.
The prime minister’s office also called for three days of national mourning following the tragedy.
Iraq’s crippling health system has been struggling in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic, with the average number of daily infections in the country reaching new highs, reporting over 8,400 per day.
The total infections on Tuesday reached 1,438,511 while the death toll rose to 17,592.