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Updated on: Saturday, November 06, 2021, 11:23 PM IST

Maharashtra: 11 COVID-19 patients die after major fire breaks out in ICU of govt hospital in Ahmednagar

Charred remains of the medical equipment and bed is pictured inside a ward after a fire broke out at a hospital in Ahmednagar district on November 6, 2021.  | (Photo by AFP)

Charred remains of the medical equipment and bed is pictured inside a ward after a fire broke out at a hospital in Ahmednagar district on November 6, 2021. | (Photo by AFP)

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MUMBAI: In a heart-wrenching incident, at least 11 COVID-19 patients were killed and seven sustained burn injuries on Saturday after a major fire broke out in the ICU ward of the civil hospital in Ahmednagar.

Most of those who perished were between 65 and 83 years of age. Among the seven injured, two are critical and the remaining are in a stable condition. A short circuit seems to be the primary cause of the fire; by an uncanny coincidence, it was a curious replay of what happened on April 23 this year, when during the second wave of the pandemic, 13 Covid patients died when a blaze engulfed the ICU of the Vijay Vallabh Hospital in Virar.

The Fire Brigade personnel had a hard time dousing the fire at Ahmednagar civil hospital as they could not enter through the main entrance due to smoke, and the windows had grills over them. Finally, amid panic, cries and chaos, fire brigade personnel broke the window panes and doused the flames with the help of water cannons.

The Maharashtra government has announced Rs 5 lakh ex gratia to the kin of the deceased.

District Collector Rajendra Bhosale informed that about 20 patients were undergoing treatment for Coronavirus at the ICU ward; ten of them were killed in the blaze.

"The bodies have been sent for post-mortem examination to ascertain the cause of demise; whether it was due to suffocation or disruption in medical oxygen supply is still a matter of investigation."

Shankar Misal, chief of the fire department of Ahmednagar Municipal Corporation, said the fire erupted around 11 am; prima facie because of a short circuit.

After a major fire broke at the COVID-19 hospital in Nashik earlier this year, a fire audit had been conducted at Ahmednagar hospital. It had been asked to install an effective fire-fighting system, including sprinklers. But the work was incomplete due to "want of funds", though the hospital had fire extinguishers, an officer said.

As many as 15 patients were on ventilators or oxygen in the ICU. "Saving them was the priority. But due to their critical condition, removing the oxygen support and bringing them out was a tough decision," said a fire brigade official. "After discussions, we decided to bring them out anyhow and later put them on oxygen or other support systems," he added.

‘‘An FIR has been lodged against unknown people,’’ said Nashik Police Commissioner Deepak Pandey. An officer of the rank of police inspector or DCP will be deputed to conduct the investigation, he added.

Ahmednagar District Guardian Minister Hasan Mushrif said an inquiry committee has been constituted. '' A committee led by Divisional Commissioner has been formed. The government has time & again given instructions to conduct fire audits; still, such incidents keep happening which is unfortunate," Mushrif added.

Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray expressed his condolences over the fire incident and directed officials to conduct a thorough probe and take stern action against those negligent.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday expressed anguish over the deaths and wished a speedy recovery of those injured. Home Minister Amit Shah, too, expressed his condolences.

NCP Minister Nawab Malik said, ‘‘It will be investigated whether the fire audits were conducted or not. In case it was done, then how did the fire begin? Conversely, if the audit was not conducted, then who is responsible? All of this will be investigated."

Public Health Minister Rajesh Tope announced that the district collector will submit a report within a week.

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Published on: Saturday, November 06, 2021, 11:23 PM IST
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