Iraqi medical officials reportedly said 64 people have died at a coronavirus hospital ward that caught fire on Monday night, the Associated Press reported Tuesday.
The fire in al-Hussein Teaching Hospital in the city of Nasiriyah on Monday night led to more than 100 people being injured, according to two health officials, the AP reported. Family members of the victims were still looking for traces of the victims Tuesday morning, with one person finding a charred skull from a female patient.
One official first said the fire was caused by an electric short circuit, while another official said it was due to an oxygen cylinder exploding, according to the AP. The provincial government of Dhi Qar and the federal government in Baghdad are being blamed for years of mishandling the hospital.
“The whole state system has collapsed, and who paid the price? The people inside here. These people have paid the price,” said Haidar al-Askari, according to the AP.
The blaze erupted when an oxygen cylinder exploded, an official said.
Via AP, NApic.twitter.com/k2Itm5MWDy
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Firefighters with flashlights and blankets extinguished small fires Monday night, according to the AP. Bodies covered with sheets were laid on the ground outside the hospital at daybreak. (RELATED: Dogs That Died In House Fire Credited With Saving 10-Year-Old Boy)
The new ward contained 70 beds and opened three months ago, according to the AP.
Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi held an emergency meeting and ordered the suspension and arrest of the health director in Dhi Qar, the director of the hospital and the city’s director of civil defense, according to the AP. An investigation by the government was also launched.
This is the second time coronavirus patients in an Iraqi hospital were killed in a fire this year, according to the AP. At least 82 people died at Ibn al-Khateeb hospital in Baghdad when an oxygen tank exploded due to widespread negligence.
American troops have also been stationed in Iraq during this time, as the country tries to come back from it’s costly war with the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). Secretary of State Antony Blinken told allies in June that the U.S. would continue fighting to defeat ISIS.
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