A lethal hearth raged Saturday on the Ibn al-Khatib hospital’s coronavirus ward in Baghdad, Iraq, the place medical officers stated the constructing was a firetrap with security shortcomings equivalent to blocked emergency exits and damaged hearth extinguishers, the Associated Press reported.
The hearth burned for hours and resulted in 82 useless and 112 injured whereas the loss of life toll might nonetheless climb. Some officers stated the disaster was attributable to exploding oxygen cylinders, however the reason for the fireplace has not but been formally disclosed by authorities.
“The fire spread so quickly because of the combustible oxygen cylinders,” Sabah Samer, a health care provider who was current throughout the catastrophe, advised AP. “The walls of the rooms were padded with plastic and nylon, which fed the fire.”
Samer stated he heard a minimum of 20 explosions and that he and different rescuers have been unable to achieve lots of the sufferers.
The Iraqi authorities introduced it launched an investigation into the incident on Sunday and what led to the tragedy can be reported in the following few days. Iraq additionally introduced that the minister of well being, the governor of Baghdad and the director basic of Al-Rasfah Health Department in Baghdad have been suspended and can be referred for investigation.
Doctors have warned of widespread mismanagement in Iraq’s hospitals, citing considerations over security guidelines, notably relating to oxygen cylinders, and a scarcity of smoke detectors, in accordance with AP.
Samer stated if a fireplace security system was in place, lives would have been saved.
For extra reporting from the Associated Press, see beneath.
It was an evening of unimaginable horror as flames engulfed the Intensive Care Unit of a Baghdad hospital: deafening screams, a affected person leaping to his loss of life to flee the inferno and kinfolk staying by their family members, refusing to desert coronavirus sufferers tethered to ventilators.
Iraqi docs, medical workers and rescue staff who witnessed the primary moments of the catastrophic blaze described the scenes to AP, many overcome by trauma and saying that evening is without end seared in their reminiscence.
Speculation has run rampant about what brought on the oxygen cylinders to blow up after officers first stated they have been the trigger.
Iraq, a nation toughened by many years of dictatorship, struggle and sectarian battle—and now struggling to deal with the pandemic—stays in shock. Senior well being officers have been fired or suspended amid allegations of negligence.
Doctors stated guests routinely smoke cigarettes round oxygen cylinders or deliver in electrical stoves to prepare dinner for the sufferers.
Samer and Yousif Hussein, a paramedic, have been among the many first to cost towards the blaze to attempt to assist the victims.
Samer stated he remembers the cylinders exploding one after one other for nearly each minute that he was inside, with flames capturing by means of the hospital home windows. He stated he counted a minimum of 20 explosions.
They might hear screams and pleas for assist from the second flooring of the hospital.
One affected person, a nurse with COVID-19, jumped by means of the window to his loss of life, his physique in flames. His charred stays have been retrieved from the hospital courtyard later, Samer stated.
Dr. Kamal al-Rubaie, 28, was on the hospital’s second-floor ICU ward, stuffed with COVID-19 sufferers on oxygen when the fireplace began. He was about to supply condolences to the household after one in all his sufferers died when he noticed the primary spark.
He stated he had feared the oxygen cylinders ever since his first rotation on the ward final October. Each room contained in the Respiratory Care Unit usually saved over a dozen cylinders, with every affected person needing between two to a few a day. There have been 30 sufferers in the unit on the time, he stated.
In the day-to day affected person care, there weren’t sufficient hospital workers to verify that every cylinder was functioning correctly. The activity usually fell on untrained kinfolk of sufferers, al-Rubaie stated. Other docs who’ve labored on the hospital stated the identical.
Given the dangers in storing oxygen cylinders, which should be stored removed from flamable supplies, fashionable hospitals have adopted centralized oxygen provide techniques. These have been established in Iraqi hospitals in the Eighties beneath Sadaam Hussein however fell into disrepair throughout the embargo years, when U.N. sanctions prevented Iraq from buying and selling oil and crippled the economic system, and likewise after the 2003 U.S.-led invasion.
With Iraqi well being amenities getting older, oxygen cylinders have grow to be the norm. And although Ibn al-Khatib did have a functioning centralized oxygen system, sufferers most popular the cylinders, seeing them as higher for particular person care.
What triggered the primary cylinder to blow up stays unclear—some speculate a affected person’s visiting relative was utilizing a bit electrical range or one other warmth supply subsequent to a cylinder.
Al-Rubaie would not keep in mind seeing a warmth supply and likewise, simply the presence of a range can not clarify the way it may need sparked the fireplace, he stated. Oxygen can solely strengthen a fireplace that’s already burning, he added.
Samer described how he rushed to a virus affected person hooked as much as a ventilator in one of many hospital rooms that was surrounded by hearth, grabbed the person and his cylinder to hold him out. Every second he carried them was stuffed with terror.
“The cylinder could explode at any moment,” he stated.
As Hussein, the paramedic, moved sufferers exterior, crowds of volunteers turned up, including to the chaos. Some got here working out of the burning hospital and advised him the three hearth extinguishers on the second flooring have been empty. They had tried to place out the flames with blankets.
Major General Khalid Bohan, the pinnacle of Iraq’s civil protection, recounted the numerous letters despatched through the years to numerous ministries, urging them to put in or replace security techniques—solely to be advised “there are no financial allocations.” A smoke detector and a fireplace system have to be in place and hospital directors bear this accountability, he advised Iraqi state TV after the fireplace.
Fire security techniques are included in the design and value breakdown of most hospitals, docs stated. But in observe, they’re seldom put in place, elevating new questions on corruption amongst officers.
His final reminiscence from that evening have been the deafening cries of those that couldn’t be reached contained in the hospital.