BAGHDAD — At least 82 people, many of them older Covid-19 patients, were killed when fire blamed on an exploding oxygen cylinder swept through a Baghdad hospital unequipped with smoke detectors or fire houses late on Saturday, according to Iraqi officials.
The fire broke out in an intensive care unit of the Ibn al-Khatib hospital and spread partly because of flammable false ceilings in the wards, the head of Iraq’s civil defense forces, Maj. Gen. Kadhim Bohan, told the state-run Iraqiya TV.
“There were no smoke detectors,” General Bohan said. “If there had been smoke detectors, the situation would have been totally different.”
Another 110 people were injured, said an Interior Ministry spokesman, Khaled al-Muhanna.
Prime Minister Mustafa al-Khadimi called the fire a crime and ordered an investigation into possible negligence at the hospital, adding that those responsible would be brought to justice.
He ordered the detention for questioning of the health director for the area of Baghdad where the hospital is located. The hospital’s director and its head of engineering and maintenance were also ordered detained.
A witness quoted by Reuters news agency said that patients and medical workers had jumped out of second-story windows to escape the flames. Some relatives outside the hospital ran back in to try to rescue their loved ones, Reuters reported.
General Bohan said that some of the victims were older patients on ventilators who could not move from their beds when the fire started.
Awadh al-Taiee and Nermeen al-Mufti contributed reporting.