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Kingdom voices solidarity with Iraq over hospital fire deaths

iraq fire
Iraqis mourn relatives killed during a fire in a hospital in the capital, during a funeral procession in Najaf, on April 25, 2021. (Photo: AFP)
AMMAN — His Majesty King Abdullah on Sunday sent a cable to Iraqi President Barham Salih, expressing condolences over the victims of the fire that broke out on Saturday in a hospital in Baghdad. اضافة اعلان

In the cable, King Abdullah expressed his sympathies to President Salih and the bereaved families, on behalf of Jordan’s people and government, wishing the injured a speedy recovery, a Royal Court statement said.

Earlier in the day, the Foreign Ministry expressed “the deepest condolences” to the government and people of Iraq over the victims of a fire that broke out in a hospital in Baghdad overnight.

A fire caused by an oxygen tank explosion at a COVID-19 hospital in Baghdad took at least 82 lives and forced some people to leap through windows out of the burning building, witnesses and authorities said on Sunday.

As rescuers combed the smoke-charred building, Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi blamed negligence and suspended his Health Minister Hassan Al-Tamimi pending an inquiry into Saturday’s blaze at the Ibn Khatib hospital, Reuters news agency reported.

Some 110 people were also injured, Interior Ministry spokesman Khalid Al-Muhanna said. Most of the dead and injured were patients, according to Reuters.

Already decimated by war and sanctions, Iraq’s healthcare system has struggled to cope with the coronavirus crisis, which has killed 15,257 people and infected more than 1 million.

Security forces cordoned off the hospital, in the Diyala Bridge area of the Iraqi capital, where charred debris and shattered glass littered the ground outside, according to Reuters.

As the flames spread on Saturday, relatives scrambled to save loved ones, with some jumping to safety.

“I carried my brother out to the street. Then I came (back) and went up to the last floor which wasn’t burning. I found a girl suffocating, about 19 years old ... she was about to die,” Ahmed Zaki told Reuters.

“I took her on my shoulders and I ran down ... Doctors jumped onto the cars. Everyone was jumping. And I kept going up from there, got people and came down again.”

While many surviving patients were moved to other hospitals, several families were still outside the Ibn Khatib hours after the blaze was extinguished, still looking for relatives.

An emergency cabinet meeting called by Kadhimi ordered an investigation with findings due in five days.

The governor of Baghdad and another senior health ministry official were also suspended and referred to investigators.

“Such an incident is evidence of negligence and therefore I directed that an investigation be launched immediately,” the prime minister said in a statement, adding that the hospital’s manager and heads of security and maintenance had been detained.

During the coronavirus crisis, hospitals have been struggling from an influx of patients and short supplies.

“As soon as you arrived at the main entrance [of the hospital], it was suffocating. No one could climb upstairs,” said another witness, Mohammed Ali, 23, a student who lost his uncle. “The whole hospital was gutted, all burnt down.”

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