Three days of national mourning were declared after the fire, which was supposed to have started when an oxygen tank exploded.
At least 27 people were killed and 46 injured after a fire broke out on Sunday at a coronavirus intensive care unit in Baghdad, as Iraq is facing an increasing wave of COVID-19 infections.
The fire at the Ibn Khatib hospital in the Iraqi capital was triggered by an accident that caused an oxygen tank to explode, health sources were quoted by Reuters and AFP news agency as saying.
According to civil defense officials, the fire spread rapidly because “the hospital did not have a fire protection system and false ceilings made the fire spread to very flammable products”.
Major General Kadhim Bohanm, head of the Iraqi civil defense unit, said 90 of the 120 patients and relatives had been rescued, state news agency INA quoted him as saying.
The fire was extinguished, he added.
Iraq’s healthcare system, which has been ruined by decades of punishment, wars and oblivion, has been extended even further as a result of the coronavirus crisis.
The Health Ministry said the total number of people infected with COVID-19 in Iraq was 102,528, of which 15,217 were fatal.
There were 30 patients and dozens of loved ones in the intensive care unit – reserved for the capital’s most severe cases of COVIDs – by the time the fire started.
“Most of the victims died from being moved and had their breathing apparatus removed, while others were suffocated,” said the civil defense guard.
The Health Department, which did not release a statement until hours after the fire, said it “saved more than 200 patients”, and promised to give an official number of deaths and injuries thereafter.
The fire caused outrage on social media and the prime minister has called for an investigation into the cause of the fire. A hashtag demanding the dismissal of the health minister is prevailing on Twitter.
In a statement, the government’s human rights committee said the incident was “a crime against exhausted patients because Covid-19 had put their lives in the hands of the health department and its organizations and replaced Because of the treatment, they died in the fire. “
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 calling for “an immediate investigation with the people in charge at the ministry” and asked that “the hospital director, head of the security department and the technical maintenance team be sent to the investigators. and not released until those at fault have been brought to Justice “.
He also declared three days of national mourning.