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Iraq Covid hospital fire: 82 dead after ‘oxygen tank explodes’

Iraq Covid hospital fire: 82 dead after 'oxygen tank explodes' thumbnail
media captionInside Ibn Khatib hospital, where the deadly fire took place.

At least 82 people have been killed in a fire at a hospital treating coronavirus patients in the capital of Iraq, Baghdad.

More than 100 other were injured in the blaze, which erupted at the Ibn Khatib hospital on Saturday night.

Reports say an accident had caused an oxygen tank to explode, sparking the blaze.

Videos on social media show firefighters scrambling to extinguish the flames as people flee the building.

Iraq’s Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi called for an immediate investigation into the causes of what he called a “tragic accident”.

image copyrightReuters

image captionEmergency officials treated patients and their relatives

The head of Iraq’s Civil Defence, Gen Kadhim Bohan, said the fire had broken out in the hospital’s intensive-care unit, on a floor “designated for pulmonary resuscitation”.

About “30 patients were in the intensive care unit”, which was reserved for the most severe cases of Covid-19 in Baghdad, a hospital source told the AFP news agency.

All patients have been taken to nearby hospitals.

The fire was under control by the early hours of Sunday morning, Iraq’s Civil Defence said.

Baghdad Governor Mohammed Jaber echoed the prime minister’s call for an urgent investigation to determine if anyone should be “brought to justice” for negligence.

In a statement, the government’s human rights commission said the incident was “a crime against patients exhausted by Covid-19”.

image copyrightGetty Images

image captionReports say an oxygen tank explosion was the cause of the blaze

Iraq’s hospitals have been pushed to the limit during the coronavirus pandemic, adding to the strains wrought by years of war, neglect and corruption.

Covid infections have been rising steeply since February in Iraq, and the total passed the one-million mark this week.

The health ministry has recorded 1,025,288 cases and 15,217 deaths since the pandemic began.

The country launched its vaccination campaign last month, and has received nearly 650,000 doses, most of which have come from Covax, a global programme for sharing jabs.

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