A fire caused by an oxygen tank explosion at a COVID-19 hospital in Baghdad took at least 82 lives and forced some people to leap through windows out of the burning building, Reuters reports witnesses and authorities said. As rescuers combed the smoke-charred building, Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi blamed negligence and suspended his Health Minister Hassan al-Tamimi pending an inquiry into Saturday’s blaze at the Ibn Khatib Hospital.
Some 110 people were also injured, Interior Ministry spokesperson Khalid al-Muhanna said. Most of the dead and injured were patients.
Already decimated by war and sanctions, Iraq’s healthcare system has struggled to cope with the coronavirus crisis, which has killed 15,257 people and infected more than 1m.
Reuters reports that an emergency cabinet meeting called by Kadhimi ordered an investigation with findings due in five days. The governor of Baghdad and another senior health ministry official were also suspended and referred to investigators.
“Such an incident is evidence of negligence and therefore I directed that an investigation be launched immediately,” the prime minister said, adding that the hospital’s manager and heads of security and maintenance had been detained.