On Sunday, the Iraqi Ministry of Interior announced that 82 people were killed and 110 others were injured, due to the outbreak of a fire caused by the explosion of an oxygen tank, in a hospital designated for Korna patients, southeast of Baghdad, at a time when the Prime Minister issued decisions to punish officials.
Announcing the high death toll, Interior Ministry spokesman Khaled Al-Muhanna said, “There is an urgent need to review safety measures in all hospitals to prevent such a painful incident in the future.”
The fire broke out, on Saturday, in Ibn Al-Khatib Hospital in the Diyala Bridge region. Relatives of patients rushed to the hospital during the fire to save their loved ones.
A man visiting his brother spoke of people jumping out of the windows to escape.
Ahmed Zaki added, “I carried my brother to the street near the checkpoint. Then I went up to the last floor, which was not burned. I found a girl who was suffocating, she was about 19 years old, who was suffocating and about to die.”
“I put it on my shoulder and ran. People were jumping … and doctors fell on the carriages. Everyone was jumping. I kept going up and fetching people and coming down again,” Reuters quoted Zaki as saying.
Medical sources said that the patients were transferred to other hospitals. However, many of the victims’ family members stayed in front of the hospital hours after the fire was extinguished because they had not found their relatives in other hospitals.
Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kazemi ordered an investigation into the accident before announcing the Minister of Health’s suspension from work and referring him to an investigation.
Al-Kazemi also ordered the arrest of the governor of Baghdad and the director-general of the Rusafa Health Department, and that they also are referred for investigation.
Al-Kazemi said in a statement, “Such an incident is evidence of default. Therefore, I have directed an immediate investigation and reservation to the director of the hospital, the director of security and maintenance, and all concerned until the negligence is found and held accountable.”
The Coronavirus crisis has burdened the Iraqi health system, which has been devastated by sanctions, war, and neglect for decades. And the Iraqi Ministry of Health said earlier Saturday that the total number of people infected with the virus has reached one million and 25,288, including 15,217 deaths.
For his part, Iraqi President Barham Salih said that the tragedy of Ibn Al-Khatib Hospital is a wound to the whole nation, and as a result of the accumulation of destruction of state institutions as a result of corruption and mismanagement.
He added in a tweet on Twitter: “Showing pain and sympathy with our martyr and injured sons is not enough without strenuous accountability for those who are negligent, and without conducting a comprehensive and serious review of the performance of institutions to ensure that such disasters do not recur.”