Iraq: explosion and fire at coronavirus hospital, 52 dead

A massive fire in the coronavirus ward of Al-Hussein hospital in the southern Iraqi city of Nasiriyah has killed 52 people.

The cause of the fire was the explosion of oxygen cylinders. Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Qadimi convened an emergency meeting to examine the causes and consequences of the tragic incident, inviting security officials and ministers, expressed deep condolences to the relatives of the victims and declared a mourning for the victims in the country. The authorities announced the start of an investigation. The provincial health minister, Saddam at-Tawil, has submitted his resignation letter. Parliament Speaker Mohammad al-Halbusi said the legislature will hold a special session on Tuesday to discuss the incident. In the province of Di Qar, a state of emergency has been declared, and vacation doctors and retired doctors are being called to help the victims.

Government spokesman Haydar al-Hamili told Agence France-Presse that a fire broke out in the 70-bed Covid-19 ward of Al Hussein Hospital: “The victims died from burns and the search continues.” He also added that some patients are still trapped, 22 people were injured, two of them are in critical condition.

According to an AFP source at the local health department, the fire was caused by an explosion of oxygen cylinders, similar to a massive fire last April in a Baghdad hospital that killed 82 people.

The fire at the Al Hussein hospital was brought under control, hundreds of people came to the scene to help rescuers and firefighters. 20 patients were evacuated from the burning building.

Iraq has a difficult epidemiological situation, the healthcare system has been weakened by years of war and corruption, and hospitals are struggling to cope with the influx of coronavirus patients. Vaccination began only at the end of March, to date, 1,087,866 vaccinations have been made, 388,541 people are fully vaccinated, or only 0.94%. During the pandemic, according to the Iraqi Ministry of Health, more than 17,000 people died from Covid-19, 1.4 million cases of infection were registered.

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