At least 64 patients have died in a severe fire in the corona ward of the Al-Hussein hospital in Nasiriya, a city in southern Iraq. Dozens of people were also injured. An exploded oxygen tank may have caused the fire.
“The victims died of burns, and the search for other victims continues,” said the spokesman for the local health authority. Images posted on social media show huge plumes of black smoke rising from the destroyed building. There is also total chaos. Hundreds of people gathered on the spot to assist the fire brigade and rescue workers, a journalist from the French news agency AFP said.
Outside the building, riots also broke out between the police and the angry relatives of the victims. According to the Reuters news agency, two police cars have been set on fire. The Iraqi prime minister has ordered the arrest of the hospital director and local health policymakers.
The COVID-19 ward of Al-Hussein Hospital had a capacity of 70 beds. 20 people were reportedly able to be evacuated from the burning property. An exploded oxygen tank may have caused the fire. That would be a repeat of the tragedy that took place in a hospital in Baghdad in April that left more than 80 people dead.
After that disaster, the Minister of Health resigned. As a result, most Iraqi hospitals have been languishing for years, and the health system is also going from bad to worse due to corruption and the economic malaise in the country.