Dozens killed as fire sweeps through Covid ward in Iraq

13 July 2021, 07:24 | Updated: 13 July 2021, 11:06

It is the second fire in a Covid ward the country has seen this year
It is the second fire in a Covid ward the country has seen this year. Picture: Alamy

By Daisy Stephens

A fire has swept through a coronavirus ward in Iraq, killing at least 50 people and injuring dozens more, medical officials have said.

Although the Health Ministry has not provided an official account of the cause of the blaze at al-Hussein Teaching Hospital in the southern city of Nasiriyah in Dhi Qar province, officials said it was caused by an electrical short circuit.

However, another official in the province said it started when an oxygen cylinder exploded – which would make it the second hospital fire with this cause in the last three months.

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The new Covid ward, which opened three months ago, contained 70 beds, two medical officials said.

Ammar al-Zamili, a spokesman for the Dhi Qar health department, told local media there were at least 63 patients in the ward when the fire began.

Officials said at least 50 people had died with severe burns and others were in a critical condition.

It is the second time a large fire has killed coronavirus patients in an Iraqi hospital this year.

At least 82 people died at Ibn al-Khateeb hospital in Baghdad in April when an oxygen tank exploded, sparking the blaze.

That incident brought to light widespread negligence and systemic mismanagement in Iraq's hospitals.

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Doctors have condemned lax safety rules, especially around oxygen cylinders.

Major General Khalid Bohan, head of Iraq's civil defence, said the building was constructed from flammable materials and prone to fire.

The Middle Eastern nation is in the midst of another severe Covid-19 wave, with daily rates peaking last week at 9,000 new cases.