11 patients killed as fire engulfs Maharashtra hospital

Charred remains at the ICU of Civil Hospital
Charred remains at the ICU of Civil Hospital. Photo: PTI

Pune: Eleven patients were killed after a major fire broke out in the ICU of the district civil hospital in Maharashtra's Ahmednagar city on Saturday.

Fire brigade personnel had hard time dousing the fire as they could not enter through the main entrance due to smoke, and the windows had grills over them.

A fire audit had been carried out at the hospital, but all necessary systems were not in place for want of funds, an official claimed.

Most of the patients were senior citizens, and many of them were on ventilator or oxygen, which made the rescue operation more tricky.

Amid panic, cries and chaotic scenes, fire brigade personnel broke the window panes and began dousing the flames using water canons, said a civic fire official whose team was the first to reach the spot after the blaze started around 11am.

Injured patients being shifted to safer place
Injured patients being shifted to safer place. Photo: PTI

About 20 coronavirus patients were undergoing treatment in the ICU, he said.

There were 15 patients on ventilator or oxygen. "Saving them was the priority. But due to their critical condition, to remove the oxygen support and bring them out was a tough decision," he said.

"After discussion, we decided to bring them out anyhow and later put them back on oxygen or other support systems," he added.

Firefighters attempt to douse the fire
Firefighters attempt to douse the fire. Photo: PTI

There was smoke everywhere, and a senior fire brigade official said that rather than flames, the smoke might have proven more lethal.

Most of those who died were aged between 65 to 83, according to hospital officials.

After a devastating blaze at a COVID-19 hospital in Nashik earlier this year, a fire audit had been carried out at this hospital.

Shankar Misal, Chief Fire officer of Ahmednagar municipal corporation, said they rushed two fire tankers immediately when the call came.

"The fire was not that big, but there was smoke all over the place. The patients who died in the incident possibly suffocated due to the smoke and heat inside the ICU," he said.

After the recent fire audit, the hospital had been asked to install an effective fire-fighting system including a pipeline and sprinkler system, he said.

But the work was incomplete due to "want of funds", though the hospital had fire extinguishers, he said.

Expressing grief over the incident, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi said, "My condolences to the kin of those who lost their lives. I appeal to congress workers to assist in the relief work."

BJP leader Devendra Fadnavis described the incident as "very shocking and disturbing".

"My deepest condolences to the families who lost their loved ones in Nagar Civil Hospital ICU Fire incident. Praying for speedy recovery of the injured," he said in a tweet.

He demanded an "in-depth inquiry" into the incident and called for a strict action against those responsible for it.

In April this year, 15 COVID-19 patients had died in a blaze at the ICU of a private hospital in Palghar district of Maharashtra.

Another fire in March at Dreams Mall in Mumbai's Bhandup, which housed a Covid-designated hospital, had claimed the lives of nine such patients.

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