Dozens Die As Blaze Hits Baghdad COVID Hospital

By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent Worthy News

(Worthy News) – Anxious families searched for relatives in Baghdad after the death toll of a weekend fire at a hospital for coronavirus patients rose to at least 82.

Flames, which also injured 110 people, swept like “volcanoes of fire” through the intensive care unit of the Ibn al-Khatib Hospital in Iraq’s capital, witnesses said.

The unit is tending exclusively to COVID-19 patients with severe symptoms, many of whom were unable to escape the blaze.

Iraq’s government suspended key health officials for alleged negligence amid outrage in Baghdad, already shaken by years of conflict and terrorism

Khalid al-Muhanna, a spokesman for Iraq’s interior ministry, admitted an exploding oxygen tank had caused the fire. “We urgently need to review safety measures at all hospitals to prevent such a painful incident from happening in the future,” he added.

Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi gave investigators 24 hours to report back over the fire, saying those responsible for the accident would be held accountable.

There was no fire safety system in the hospital, and the secondary ceiling made from cork helped the fire spread, officials acknowledged.

Ahmed Zaki, who was visiting his brother when the blaze started, told reporters that “it spread like fuel” was burning. After making sure his brother was safe, he said people were jumping out of windows to escape. “Doctors fell on the cars. Everyone was jumping,” he said, adding that he helped others to escape.

Dr. Sabah al-Kuzaie, who was also at the hospital, said there were “so many burned bodies all over the place.”

The horrific scenes underscored broader concerns that Iraq’s hospitals have been pushed to the limit during the coronavirus pandemic.

Critics have linked the difficulties to neglect and corruption as well as the strains of war.

The conflict also caused many minority Christians, including doctors, to leave Iraq as Islamic attacks make their lives difficult.

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