At least 23 people died and another fifty were injured in a fire in an intensive care unit for patients with covid-19 in Baghdad, the capital of Iraq, the Arab country with the most coronavirus infections. At dawn, the civil defense announced that the fire at Al Jatib hospital was under control.
The accident was caused by oxygen cylinders “stored without respecting safety conditions,” medical sources explained to the agency France Presse. One more disgrace in a country of 40 million inhabitants whose health system has not recovered from four decades of war.
In the middle of the night, when there were dozens of relatives with “thirty patients in this intensive care unit” reserved for the most serious cases in Baghdad, the flames spread to the plants, a medical source told AFP.
“The hospital did not have a fire protection system and the false ceilings allowed the fire to spread to highly flammable products,” reports civil defense. “Most of the victims died because they were displaced and deprived of ventilators, and others, suffocated by smoke,” he adds.
Videos posted on social media show firefighters trying to put out the flames as the sick and their families try to leave the building, located on the outskirts of Baghdad.
The civil defense services told the official Iraqi agency that they have managed to “save 90 people of the 120 sick and family members” who were at the scene, but they did not want to give the exact number of deaths and injuries.
It is a “crime”, denounced the government Commission on Human Rights. “Against patients exhausted by covid-19 who put their lives in the hands of the Ministry of Health and who instead of being cured died from the flames.”
The governor of Baghdad, Mohamed Jaber, demanded “from the Ministry of Health an investigation commission so that those who have not done their work are brought to justice.” Kazimi responded by announcing “an immediate investigation.” He demanded that “the director of the hospital, the head of security and the team in charge of technical maintenance be made available to the investigators, and that they not be released until the culprits are tried.”
Iraq, a country with a shortage of medicines, doctors and hospitals for decades, surpassed one million cases of covid-19 on Wednesday. But it registers a relatively low death toll, probably because its population is one of the youngest in the world.
According to the Health Ministry, 1,025,288 Iraqis have been infected since the appearance of the new coronavirus in the country in February 2020, of which 15,217 have died. The Ministry of Health claims to carry out some 40,000 tests daily, a very low figure in a country with several cities with more than two million inhabitants, where the population density is high.
Iraq has received almost 650,000 doses of different vaccines, almost all in donation form or through the international Covax program aimed at ensuring equitable access to vaccines.
Almost 300,000 people have already received at least a first dose, according to health authorities, which is trying to convince the population about the importance of getting vaccinated and wearing a mask.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.