Deadly blaze at Baghdad hospital kills at least 82 and injures 110

Deadly blaze at hospital treating Covid patients in Baghdad kills at least 82 and injures 110 as fire causes oxygen tanks to explode

  • The fire at the Ibn al-Khatib hospital in Baghdad started with an explosion caused by ‘a fault in the storage of oxygen cylinders’, medical sources said
  • Video shows the fire raging across the hospital as flames reach the top of building on Saturday night
  • An eyewitness described people jumping out of windows as fire quickly spread 

At least 82 people have been killed and 110 injured in a deadly blaze at a hospital treating Covid-19 patients in southeastern Baghdad, the interior ministry said.  

The fire at the Ibn al-Khatib hospital in the Diyala Bridge area of the Iraqi capital started on Saturday night after a ‘fault’ caused oxygen tanks to explode, medical sources at three nearby hospitals said.  

Video footage shows the fire raging across the hospital as the flames reach the top of the building. In the video, a loud bang can be heard as a huge flash of light fills the dark sky as an oxygen tank explodes.

An eyewitness who was visiting his brother when the fire broke out described people jumping out of windows as the fire quickly spread.   

In harrowing scenes, medics and locals were seen racing inside the hospital trying to find and save those hurt in the blast. 

They were then seen frantically running as they carried the injured on hospital beds towards the doors to reach waiting ambulances outside. 


Video footage shows the fire raging across the hospital as the flames reach the top of the building (left). In the video, a loud bang can be heard as a huge flash of light (right) fills the dark sky as an oxygen tank explodes.

The fire at the Ibn al-Khatib hospital in the Diyala Bridge area of the Iraqi capital started on Saturday night after a ‘fault’ caused oxygen tanks to explode, medical sources at three nearby hospitals said

The head of Iraqi civil defense unit Major General Kadhim Bohan confirmed that the fire broke out in the floor designated for the pulmonary intensive care unit

In harrowing scenes, medics and locals were seen racing inside the hospital trying to find and save those hurt in the blast

Scores of ambulances were rushing towards the hospital, ferrying those hurt by the fire, a Reuters photographer nearby said. 

Patients not injured in the incident were also being transferred out of the hospital, the medical sources said. 

In the middle of the night, as dozens of relatives were at the bedsides of the 30 patients in the intensive care unit at the hospital – reserved for the most severe Covid-19 cases in Baghdad – flames spread across multiple floors, another medical source said. 

The head of Iraqi civil defense unit Major General Kadhim Bohan confirmed that the fire broke out in the floor designated for the pulmonary intensive care unit and that 90 people have been rescued from the hospital out of 120, state news agency INA quoted him as saying.    

He added that the fire has been put out.

Scores of ambulances were rushing towards the hospital, ferrying those hurt by the fire, a Reuters photographer nearby said

Videos on social media showed firefighters trying to extinguish flames at the hospital on the southeastern outskirts of the Iraqi capital, as patients and their relatives tried to flee the building

Rescuers look at the carnage caused by the oxygen tank explosion at the hospital in Baghdad

The fire at the Ibn al-Khatib hospital in the Diyala Bridge area of the Iraqi capital started on Saturday night after a ‘fault’ caused oxygen tanks to explode

The fire started with an explosion caused by ‘a fault in the storage of oxygen cylinders’, medical sources said. 

It spread quickly, according to the civil defence, as ‘the hospital had no fire protection system and false ceilings allowed the flames to spread to highly flammable products’.  

Videos on social media showed firefighters trying to extinguish flames at the hospital on the southeastern outskirts of the Iraqi capital, as patients and their relatives tried to flee the building.

‘The majority of the victims died because they had to be moved and were taken off ventilators, while the others were suffocated by the smoke,’ the civil defence said. 

Video footage shows rescuers wearing masks as they search smoke-filled wards of the hospital. 

Some of the rescuers – who appear to be locals – are only wearing scarves over their mouths and noses as they try to search for those missing. Their coughs can be heard throughout the wards.  

Several victims’ families were still at the hospital hours after the fire had been put out, having been unable to locate them elsewhere.

The fire started with an explosion caused by ‘a fault in the storage of oxygen cylinders’, medical sources said

The fire spread quickly, according to the civil defence, as ‘the hospital had no fire protection system and false ceilings allowed the flames to spread to highly flammable products’

The aftermath of the fire shows burned corridors in the hospital where Covid-19 patients were being treated

An eyewitness who was visiting his brother when the fire broke out described people jumping out of windows as the fire, caused by the explosion of an oxygen bottle, spread quickly throughout the unit equipped to house COVID-19 patients.

Patients’ relatives scrambled to save their loved ones.

‘In the beginning, there was an explosion…The fire spread, like fuel,’ said one relative of one of the patients who was there at the time of the explosion.

‘The smoke reached my brother. My brother is sick, I took my brother out to the street. Then I came (back)…To the last floor, that did not burn. I found a girl suffocating, about 19 years old, she was suffocating, she was about to die.’

‘I took her on my shoulders and I ran down. People were jumping…Doctors fell on the cars. Everyone was jumping. And I kept going up from there, got people and come down again.’

Video footage of the fire’s aftermath shows rescuers surrounded by burned hospital beds and now hollow, black corridors.   

The aftermath of the fire shows burned windows and wreckage strewn on the floor below

Relatives and rescuers walk inside the hospital in the early hours of Sunday morning after the explosion on Saturday night

A family member of a victim of the fire waits outside the hospital alongside other relatives on Sunday 

The fire – which according to several sources was caused by negligence, often linked to endemic corruption in Iraq – immediately sparked anger on social media in the country, with a hashtag demanding the health minister be sacked trending on Twitter.

The health ministry, which did not put out a statement until several hours after the fire, said it had ‘saved over 200 patients’, and promised an official toll of the dead and wounded later. 

Baghdad Governor Mohammed Jaber called on the health ministry ‘to establish a commission of enquiry so that those who did not do their jobs may be brought to justice’.

In a statement, the government’s human rights commission said the incident was ‘a crime against patients exhausted by Covid-19 who put their lives in the hands of the health ministry and its institutions and instead of being treated, perished in flames’.

The commission called on Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhemi to fire Health Minister Hassan al-Tamimi and ‘bring him to justice’.

Kadhemi responded by ordering an investigation into the incident in the early hours of Sunday.    

‘Such an incident is evidence of negligence and therefore I directed that an investigation be launched immediately and for the hospital’s manager and the heads of security and maintenance to be detained along with all those concerned until we identify those negligent and hold them accountable.’  

He also declared three days of national mourning. 

Iraq’s healthcare system, already ruined by decades of sanctions, war and neglect, has been stretched during the coronavirus crisis.

On Wednesday, the number of Covid-19 cases in Iraq surpassed one million, the highest of any Arab state.

The health ministry has recorded 15,217 deaths since the country’s first infections were reported in February 2020.

It has said it carries out around 40,000 tests daily from a population of 40 million.

Those patients who can often prefer to source oxygen tanks for treatment at home, rather than go to overcrowded and run-down hospitals.

The country launched its vaccination campaign last month, and has received nearly 650,000 doses of different vaccines – the majority by donation or through the Covax programme, which is helping lower and middle income nations to procure vaccines.

As of Wednesday, 274,343 people had received at least one dose, the ministry said.

Health authorities have faced an uphill battle to convince Iraqis to get vaccinated, in the face of widespread scepticism over the jab and public reluctance to wear masks since the start of the pandemic.     

Source: Read Full Article