A fire in the intensive care unit of a multi-story coronavirus hospital in the coastal Indian city of Virar, 70 kilometers (43 miles) north of Mumbai, has claimed the lives of over a dozen patients.
The fire erupted around 3am local time on Friday in the ICU ward of the Vijay Vallabh private hospital, housing around 90 patients.
The fire started in the air conditioning unit of the hospital’s ICU. There were 17 patients in the ICU at that time. “The incident occurred after 3 am and within 5 mins Vasai Virar Municipal Corporation fire brigade reached the spot.
By morning, 21 patients were moved to nearby hospitals. Maharashtra’s Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray has announced Rs 5 lakh (every lakh is equivalent to one hundred thousand) each to the family members of the patients who died and Rs 1 lakh each to the critically injured patients.
At the time the fire struck, 18 patients were being treated in the ward, but only five survived the incident and were transported to nearby hospitals. The remaining 13 patients, including five women and eight men, perished in the fire.
An investigation has been launched into what might have caused the fire, with Thackeray saying he also directed officials to check whether the hospital was in compliance with fire safety rules.
It has been reported that the fire might have been sparked by a short circuit in the air-conditioning unit that ultimately led to an explosion.
It took firefighters about two hours to extinguish the flames, which by that time reduced the ICU ward to smoldering debris, footage on social media shows.
The incident comes as hospitals across India grapple with a shortage of oxygen supplies amid a surge in coronavirus infections, believed to be driven by the new ‘double mutant’ strain. On Thursday, New Delhi banned oxygen supplies for industrial purposes to ensure depleted supplies of liquid oxygen in hospitals are replenished.