Fire in COVID-19 ward kills 64 at southern Iraqi hospital

A fire at an isolation ward for patients in a southern Iraqi hospital has killed no fewer than 64 people, officials said on Tuesday.

Around 50 others have been injured, according to the Health Department in Dhi Qar province.

The blaze erupted on Monday at Imam al-Hussein hospital in Nassiriyah city, in Dhi Qar province, which lies some 375 kilometres south of the capital Baghdad.

Officials said there were more than 60 patients at the ward when the fire erupted, plus the medical staff.

The fire totally destroyed the ward, which was built over a 600-square-metre area and designed to take up to 100 patients.

Prime Minister, Mustafa al-Kadhimi ordered an investigation into the fire and suspended the senior health and security officials in the province.

All three will face investigation.

Officials are yet to confirm the cause of the fire but witnesses said it started when an oxygen cylinder exploded.

In April, a similar incident occurred at a hospital in the capital Baghdad, killing more than 80 people.

President Barham Salih described the two incidents as “catastrophes.’’

“They were the result of persistent and mismanagement that underestimated the lives of Iraqis and prevented reforming the performance of institutions,’’ Salih wrote on Twitter.

He urged investigators to hold those responsible for such negligence accountable and said that a strict review of the performance of institutions is necessary.

Iraq has been struggling to control the spread of and the vaccination drive has been slow.

It is also experiencing a deep economic crisis, compounded by the pandemic and a fall in oil prices, the country’s main source of income. (dpa/NAN)

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