Thane: Four patients died of suffocation after fire broke out at a private hospital, a non-Covid facility housed in a seven-storey building in Mumbra early on Wednesday. This is the fourth such incident this year. The four were among the 20 patients who were rescued but died after being shifted to other hospitals in Mumbra. A short-circuit in the meter box of the hospital is suspected to have sparked the fire, according to preliminary inquiry.
According to official sources, the hospital, located in a residential building, was not fire-compliant. Because of the short circuit, there was a power cut in the four wings of Hasnain Tower until Wednesday evening.
The deceased have been identified as Yasmeen Zafar Sayyed, 46, Nawab Majid Shaikh, 47, Halima Salmani, 70, and Harish Sonawane, 57.
A week ago, 15 Covid patients died in a fire in a hospital in the Virar area, around 50 km from Mumbai. On April 21, 24 Covid patients lost their lives at the Dr. Zakir Hussain Hospital run by the Nashik Municipal Corporation after an oxygen tanker leaked. In March, fire broke out at a Covid hospital in Mumbai’s suburban Bhandup, which claimed nine lives. In January, 10 infants died after a fire broke out at a special newborn care unit of the Bhandara district hospital in the Bhandara district of Vidarbha.
According to the regional disaster management cell (RDMC), the fire broke out at 3.40am at Prime Criticare Hospital on the first floor of Hasnain Tower, Shimla Park on the old Mumbai-Pune Road in Kausa, Mumbra.
The fire brigade, RDMC and Mumbra Police, along with locals, carried out the rescue operations. Five ambulances, Torrent officials, three fire engines, two water tankers and one rescue vehicle were rushed to the spot.
Housing Minister Jitendra Awhad, MLA from the Mumbra-Kalwa constituency, also visited the spot and confirmed news of the four patients’ death in the incident. He said the reason behind the fire is yet to be ascertained. “A committee will be formed to investigate the reason behind the fire. Meanwhile, the Chief Minister has announced Rs 5 lakh compensation for the kin of the deceased,” said Awhad.
Advocate Farhan Ansari, who resides at Zahur Chawl behind the hospital said, “It was around 3.30am, I was standing by the window. It was time for sehri and I was waiting when I saw smoke and heard the screams of women. Along with others in our building, I immediately rushed out and we ran to the back of the hospital. However, we found the back window was closed and covered with a grille. With a rod, we bent the grille, broke the glass and rescued the patients,” Ansari said.
Mohsin Khan, another participant in the rescue operations, said, “Patients who were on the front side were rescued. Those in the intensive care unit were stuck as this area was located in the back. The entire room was filled with smoke. As soon as we broke the glass of the back window, smoke came out. Patients who were already on the ventilator were suffocating and eventually died. Had we been a little late in coming to the rescue, more people would have died.” Local residents Navid Shaikh, Alkama Khan, Affan Dole, Sarfaraz Darbari and others were also among the rescuers.
RDMC chief Santosh Kadam, Thane Municipal Corporation (TMC), said, “All 20 patients, including six from the ICU were rescued successfully. However, four of these patients succumbed after being shifted to another private hospital.”
The 20 patients included seven on the first floor – three in the male ward and four in the female ward, six patients in the ICU, two women and four men, two male patients in twin sharing rooms and one in the general ward among others.
Guardian Minister Eknath Shinde, along with Thane Municipal Commissioner Dr Vipin Sharma, also visited the site. “The fire began at the meter box, and the fumes spread into the hospital. The four patients who died were rescued but they had suffered smoke inhalation. They were reported dead after being shifted to another hospital. The patients were shifted to Bilal and Kalsekar hospitals. We have asked for a structural, fire as well as oxygen audit of the hospital and will take action against the negligence that killed four people. The state government had announced Rs 5 lakh to the each of the families of the dead and Rs 1 lakh to the injured, An additional ₹5 lakh will be given to the kin of those who died from the Thane Municipal Corporation, and ₹1 lakh to those were injured will also be given,” said Shinde.
Girish Zalke, Chief Fire Officer, TMC, said, “The fire started from the meter box of the hospital and later spread on the upper side. We had sent a notice to the hospital for a fire audit, but received no response.”
T Mishra, fire officer, Mumbra Fire Brigade, said the hospital did not have fire compliance measures in place. However, sources from the fire department alleged the hospital had been seeking permission for the last five years but had been turned down by officials. Earlier, the hospital was known as Lifeline Hospital, then as Saboo Siddique Hospital and now, Prime Criticare Hospital.
Attempts to reach the hospital’s Public Relations Officer Ismail Khan were unsuccessful.
Senior Police Inspector Madhukar Kad of Mumbra police station said, “We have sought a report from the fire brigade and the corporation. Those found negligent will be booked.”
Meanwhile, Shanu Pathan, a Nationalist Congress Party corporator from Mumbra and opposition leader in the TMC protested the visit of former member of Parliament, Kirit Somaiya to the spot and blaming the state government for the tragedy. Pathan said it was wrong of Somaiya to politicise the incident. “We have been in the midst of rescue operations from midnight and Somaiya comes in at the end and plays politics. Why is the Centre not providing hospitals with funds, so that such situations do not occur?” asked Pathan.
Inquiry committee set up: Thane Municipal Commissioner Dr Vipin Sharma has announced the setting up of an inquiry committee to investigate the reason for the fire and the illegalities. The committee will be headed by his deputy, Manish Joshi. “A high-level inquiry committee has been formed to ascertain the exact reason of fire and the negligence on the part of the hospital. We will check whether they had a fire audit and all other documents.”
Locals bemoaned the fact that there was no government hospital in Mumbra, forcing them to go to private hospitals. According to TMC sources, most buildings in Mumbra are illegal and private hospitals are also housed in such structures. Because the buildings are illegal, hospitals cannot obtain the required permissions or documentation. “We can't take action against the hospital, as it will result in shortage of treatment facilities for the citizens of Mumbra,” a civic source said.