82 DEAD AS FIRE HITS BAGHDAD HOSPITAL FOR COVID-19 PATIENTS
Eighty-two people died in a fire that swept through a hospital in southeastern Baghdad early Sunday, the Iraqi Interior Ministry said, Kadhem al-Attabi and Ramadan Al-Fatash reported for Deutsche Presse-Agentur (dpa).
Some 110 others were injured in the blaze at the Ibn al-Khatib Hospital, which cares for COVID-19 patients, Iraq's state news agency INA quoted the ministry as saying. The ministry doubted there was a criminal motive for the fire that reports say started at an intensive care unit.
"Investigations are ongoing. There are technical and criminal investigations to determine the circumstances of the incident," the head of the ministry's press office, Saad Maan, told INA.
Some attributed the blaze to an electrical short-circuit while others said it was caused by faulty oxygen devices, INA reported.
The blaze gutted the ground floor of the hospital, including a room where COVID-19 patients were on ventilators, said an eyewitness. After the fire broke out, local mosques called on people to hurry to the hospital and take part in rescue efforts, said Sejad Abdel-Hadi.
"Dozens of young people stormed the departments hit by the fire," the Iraqi man told dpa by phone. He said tens of patients were rescued and transferred to other hospitals by volunteers by private car.
"There were charred bodies," he added. Later Sunday, the country's health minister, the Baghdad governor and the head of the city health department were suspended, and the government referred them to an inquiry into the tragedy, INA added.