Fire in Iraq hospital's COVID-19 unit kills 64

Updated: Jul 13, 2021, 05:41 PM(IST)

The Iraqi city of Nasiriyah was gripped with grief and anger after a fire swept through a Covid isolation unit, killing 64 people and wounding dozens more.

The blaze took place in the city's Al-Hussein hospital on Monday. Medics believe that the fire was caused by the explosion of oxygen canisters, marking the second such fire in Iraq in three months.

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Protesters blame the government

On Tuesday, as the first of the funerals were held, angry protesters gathered to vent their anger at provincial authorities they hold responsible for the deaths, AFP reported.


Anger mounts

Hundreds of young protesters shut down private hospitals in Nasiriyah to pressure authorities to open the doors of a newly-built public hospital in the southern city.


Death toll could go up

"Sixty-four (bodies) were retrieved and 39 identified and handed over to their families," a source at the provincial forensic science department told AFP.

"Medical teams and relatives of victims are finding it difficult to identify the rest of the corpses," the source said, adding that the death toll might rise with more bodies feared buried under the rubble.


Corruption to blame?

In a Tuesday tweet, Iraqi President Barham Salih blamed the "catastrophe" at Al-Hussein Hospital on "persistent corruption and mismanagement that undervalues the lives of Iraqis".


A series of fires

Salih recalled an April fire at a Baghdad Covid-19 hospital which killed 82 people and injured 110. It too was sparked by the explosion of badly stored oxygen cylinders.

The April fire triggered widespread anger, resulting in the suspension and subsequent resignation of then health minister Hassan al-Tamimi.


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