Virar: Thirteen COVID-19 patients, including five women, died in a blaze at the intensive care unit of a private hospital in Palghar district of Maharashtra on Friday.
There were 90 patients in the hospital, 18 of them in the ICU, when the fire broke out after a blast in the AC unit, the police said.
TV visuals showed the smoke-filled ICU in a disarray after the blaze, with the ceiling falling off in some places, beds and other furniture strewn around and kin of the deceased wailing outside the hospital.
The fire broke out in the ICU on the second floor of the four-storeyed Vijay Vallabh Hospital at Virar shortly after 3 am, an offier said. Firefighters extinguished the blaze at 5.20 am, he added.
There were 18 patients in the ICU when the fire broke out, the official said. Five patients were rescued and shifted to other hospitals in the area, he added.
The other patients in the hospital were not affected as the damage was confined to the ICU, he added.
Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray has ordered a probe into the tragedy, Health Minister Rajesh Tope said.
Former BJP MP Kirit Somaiya said authorities should check if there was a fire safety audit of the hospital, which is over 50 km from Mumbai.
The tragedy comes two days after 22 COVID-19 patients who were either on ventilator or oxygen support, suffocated to death when their oxygen supply stopped suddenly due to a malfunction in the main storage at a civic hospital in Nashik.
District Disaster Control Cell chief Vivekanand Kadam told PTI that the Virar hospital fire was preceded by an explosion in the AC unit of the intensive care unit.
Relatives of the deceased reached the hospital soon after hearing of the incident and demanded that stringent action be taken against those responsible for the tragedy.
Ten infants were killed in a fire that broke out at a special newborn care unit of the Bhandara district hospital in Maharashtra on January 9. Seventeen infants, aged one to three months, were admitted to the ward at the time of the tragedy.
A fire broke out in Mumbai's Dreams Mall, which housed a Covid-designated hospital on its third floor, in the intervening night of March 25-26. The fire, which raged for over 40 hours, claimed nine lives, including those of patients on ventilator support.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Narendra Modi condoled the loss of lives in a blaze at a private hospital in Maharashtra's Palghar district and approved an ex-gratia of Rs 2 lakh each for the next of kin of the victims.
"The fire at a COVID-19 hospital in Virar is tragic. Condolences to those who lost their loved ones. May the injured recover soon," Modi was quoted as saying by the Prime Minister's Office (PMO).
"PM @narendramodi has approved an ex-gratia of Rs. 2 lakh each from PMNRF (Prime Minister's National Relief Fund) for the next of kin of those who have lost their lives due to the hospital fire in Virar, Maharashtra. Rs. 50,000 would be given to those seriously injured," the PMO said in a tweet.
Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray also announced a financial assistance of Rs five lakh each to the families of 13 COVID-19 patients.
AC was not working since Thursday, says staffer
An employee of the private hospital in Maharashtra's Palghar district, where 13 COVID-19 patients died in a fire after a blast in an air conditioning unit, said the AC system there was not working since Thursday afternoon and some repair work was going on.
The hospital employee said the facility had been facing some problem with its AC system in the COVID-19 ward since Thursday afternoon.
"When I went to the hospital yesterday afternoon, the air conditioner was not working in the COVID-19 ward of the hospital. I saw that some repair work was going on at that time as AC panels were removed," Supriya Deshmukh, a staffer at the hospital told a regional news channel.
"The hospital set up some fans as a temporary arrangement. After finishing my work and I returned home late in the evening," she said.
Meanwhile, the relatives of the COVID-19 patients who died in the incident, complained about the hospital's alleged mismanagement to Shiv Sena leader and state minister Eknath Shinde, when he went to take stock of the situation.
The relatives told him that the hospital was understaffed, due to which proper attention was given to the patients.
Shinde told them that appropriate action would be taken.
(With PTI inputs)