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35 die in fire at Iraqi Covid ward

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NASIRIYAH: At least 35 people died in a fire in the Covid isolation ward of a hospital in the southern Iraqi city of Nasiriyah on Monday.

“The death toll from the fire that ripped through the Covid isolation ward in Nasiriyah stands at 35, with five wounded, including two in critical condition,” Haydar al Zamili, a spokesman for the local health department, said.

“The victims died of burns and the search is continuing,” he added, noting there were fears that many victims remained trapped inside the building.

Videos shared online showed thick clouds of smoke billowing from the Al Hussein hospital.

Earlier on Monday, a minor fire broke out at the health ministry’s headquarters in Baghdad, but it was quickly contained with no fatalities recorded.

The blaze at the hospital is the second such tragedy this year.

In April, a fire at a Baghdad Covid-19 hospital killed 82 and injured 110, sparked by the explosion of badly stored oxygen cylinders.

Many of the victims were on respirators being treated for Covid-19 and were burned or suffocated in the resulting inferno that spread rapidly through the hospital, where relatives were visiting patients in the intensive care unit.

The then health minister, Hassan al Tamimi, resigned after the April fire.

Iraq — where the oil-reliant economy is still recovering from decades of war and insurgency and many people live in poverty — has recorded over 1.4 million Covid cases and more than 17,000 deaths.

Published in Dawn, July 13th, 2021

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