Policeman stands guard at Patel Welfare Covid Hospital in Bharuch. (Photo: AFP)
Policeman stands guard at Patel Welfare Covid Hospital in Bharuch. (Photo: AFP)

At least 18 persons including 16 Covid-19 patients were killed in a fire at a hospital in Gujarat’s Bharuch district in the wee hours of Saturday, according to officials.

About 60 patients were admitted to Patel Welfare Hospital when the fire broke out in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) post-midnight.

The state government said a judicial inquiry would be conducted into the incident in which the ICU of the hospital, run by a charitable trust, was totally destroyed. The cause of the fire is suspected to be due to a short circuit.

"Sixteen coronavirus patients and two nursing staff were either charred to death or died due to suffocation inside a Covid-19 unit," Superintendent of Police Rajendrasinh Chudasama said.

The fire was doused within an hour. Local people and the kin of patients helped in the rescue operation during which dozens of patients were shifted to other facilities by ambulance. Some were brought out of the building on wheelchairs or on make-shift stretchers of cloth.

The four-storey designated Covid hospital, which is situated on the Bharuch-Jambusar highway and 190 km from Ahmedabad, is yet to have obtained NOC for fire, according to an IANS report citing fire officers.

Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani announced ex-gratia aid of Rs 4 lakh to the next of kin of the deceased in the fire.

He also directed Additional Chief Secretary (Labour) Vipul Mittra and Commissioner of Municipalities Administration Rajkumar Beniwal to conduct an inquiry.

The government will also institute a judicial inquiry into the tragedy, Rupani told reporters.

Vadodara Range Inspector General of Police Harikrishna Patel also visited the hospital. Teams of Forensic Science Laboratory (FSL) and state-owned power distributor Dakshin Gujarat Vij Company also reached the spot.

Minister of State for Health Kumar Kanani told reporters that round-the-clock use of air conditioners and ventilators has increased the risk of fires at hospitals.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Home Minister Amit Shah expressed grief over the incident.

"Pained by the loss of lives due to a fire at a hospital in Bharuch. Condolences to the bereaved families," Modi tweeted.

"I am extremely saddened by the fire accident at a hospital in Bharuch, Gujarat. I express my deepest condolences to the families of all the people who lost their lives in this accident and pray for the speedy recovery of the injured," Shah said in a tweet.

Earlier on March 26, four patients had died while shifting after a fire broke out at a hospital in Surat. (With inputs from agencies)

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