Eleven patients died after a fire broke out in the ICU (intensive care unit) of the Civil Hospital in Maharashtra's Ahmednagar on Saturday morning.
Three to four others have been injured and are being treated. The fire was in the hospital's COVID-19 ward, in which 17 patients had been admitted.
The remaining patients have been shifted to a Covid ward in another hospital, District Collector Rajendra Bhosle told reporters, adding that a 'fire audit' of the structure had been conducted.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted in the evening to say he was "anguished by the loss of lives".
"Anguished by the loss of lives due to a fire in a hospital in Ahmednagar, Maharashtra. Condolences to the bereaved families. May the injured recover at the earliest", he said.
Anguished by the loss of lives due to a fire in a hospital in Ahmednagar, Maharashtra. Condolences to the bereaved families. May the injured recover at the earliest.— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) November 6, 2021
Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray has ordered a probe into the tragedy, and announced Rs 5 lakh compensation for the families of those who died.
The cause of the blaze, which has now been extinguished, is as yet unknown, but preliminary investigations by the fire department suggest it started due to an electrical short circuit, Dr Bhosle said.
Visuals show smoke pouring out of the lower floors of the hospital. Others show some people slowly re-entering the ward after the fire was put out, with soot-stained walls and broken ceiling panels visible.
Other videos show the heart-breaking sight of doctors desperately trying to revive some of those caught in the fire, and those fortunate to be shifted out can be seen waiting in the courtyard.
An official inquiry will take place, the senior government official told reporters.
Maharashtra minister Nawab Malik said the ICU had been newly built for the express purpose of treating coronavirus patients, and the fact that a fire had broken out was a "very serious issue".
Mr Malik said all hospitals had been asked to undertake a 'fire audit' and that the Ahmednagar Civil Hospital's report in this regard would be checked. A thorough investigation will take place, he said.
The minister also said Chief Minister Thackeray extended his condolences to the families of those who had died, and assured them of every possible support.
Former Chief Minister and BJP leader Devendra Fadnavis tweeted calling for "strict action against all responsible people".
"Very shocking and disturbing news from Ahmednagar. My deepest condolences to the families who lost their loved ones... Praying for speedy recovery of the injured. In-depth inquiry should be conducted & strict action against all responsible people!" he tweeted.
Very shocking & disturbing news from Nagar— Devendra Fadnavis (@Dev_Fadnavis) November 6, 2021
My deepest condolences to the families who lost their loved ones in Nagar Civil Hospital ICU Fire incident.
Praying for speedy recovery of the injured.
In-depth inquiry should be conducted & strict action against all responsible people! https://t.co/aULpawsrmv
NCP leader Sangram Jagtap, who represents the Ahmednagar Assembly seat also expressed sorrow.
"Today, in the Ahmednagar Civil Hospital, there was a fire... many people lost their lives. Definitely an inquiry will take place, but it must be a (state) government committee and not a local (zilla) committee. We must find out how the fire started and who was responsible," he told reporters.
In April 14 Covid patients died after a fire in the ICU of a hospital in Virar, which is around 70 km from Mumbai. A month before that another fire - this time in a Mumbai mall that also housed a hospital that was given temporary permission to treat COVID-19 patients - killed 10 people.