In the heart-wrenching tragedy, 10 babies – ranging from newborns to three-month-old babies died in a horrific fire at the Bhandara district hospital on Saturday at around 1.30 am. Of these, three babies died of severe burn injuries, while seven died of suffocation due to the smoke.
Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray has ordered a detailed inquiry into the incident. He also stated that the guilty will not be spared. The CM declared that the safety and security of hospitals across the state will not be compromised.
While the cause of the fire was not known immediately, the hospital administration said an electrical short-circuit could be the possible reason.
According to doctors, 10 babies comprising eight girls and two boys, aged between a month and three months, died after fire broke out in the Special Newborn Care Unit of the hospital around 1.30 am. Seven out of the 17 babies in the affected unit were rescued.
Public Health Minister Rajesh Tope has announced that Rs 5 lakh would be paid to family members of each of the deceased infant. Today’s incident also revealed that the doctors on night duty were missing from the hospital.
Thackeray said a new wing for children had been opened at the district hospital in 2015 and it will be probed whether a fire audit of the new building had been carried out.
District civil surgeon Pramod Khandate said a nurse noticed smoke coming out from the neonatal section -- which needs continuous oxygen supply -- and alerted doctors and other staff who rushed there and tried to douse flames with fire extinguishers before the fire brigade arrived. They managed to rescue seven children from a smoke- filled ward but ten others perished in the tragedy, he said.
Photographs from the ward showed blackened walls, floor thick with ash, and charred furniture.
"The government has ordered a high-level probe to find out if a short circuit or the air conditioner malfunctioning was the reason," said state home minister Anil Deshmukh who visited the hospital and met the staff. Experts of National Fire Service College and the Visvesvaraya National Institute of Technology (VNIT) will conduct investigation, he said.
Unbearable pain was seen in the eyes of parents of deceased children as they grappled with the calamity. "We had not even named our daughter and now we have got her burnt dead body," said Vishwanath Behere, a labourer, as his wife sobbed.
Hours after the tragedy, President Ram Nath Kovind, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi and others condoled the deaths. In his tweet posted in Hindi, President Kovind said: "I am deeply saddened by the untimely death of infants in a fire accident in Bhandara, Maharashtra. My heartfelt condolences to the families who lost their children in this heart-wrenching event,"
"Heart-wrenching tragedy in Bhandara, Maharashtra, where we have lost precious young lives. My thoughts are with all the bereaved families. I hope the injured recover as early as possible," PM Modi tweeted.
Maharashtra Governor BS Koshyari said: “Extremely saddened to know about the most tragic incident of fire at Bhandara Civil Hospital. Convey my deepest condolences to the families of the innocent children who lost their lives.”
Rahul Gandhi appealed to the Maharashtra government to provide all possible assistance to the families of the deceased and the injured. The Congress is a constituent in the Shiv Sena-led state government.
Terming the death of the ten infants a "very painful" incident, former Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis demanded a thorough probe.