Fire brigade personnel had hard time dousing the fire at the ICU of the Ahmednagar civil hospital in Maharashtra on Saturday morning as they could not enter through the main entrance due to smoke, and the windows had grills over them.
A fire audit had been carried out at the hospital, but all necessary systems were not in place for want of funds, an official claimed.
The blaze claimed 11 lives. Most of the patients were senior citizens, and many of them were on ventilator or oxygen, which made the rescue operation more tricky.
Amid panic, cries and chaotic scenes, fire brigade personnel broke the window panes and began dousing the flames using water canons, said a civic fire official whose team was the first to reach the spot after the blaze started around 11 am.
About 20 coronavirus patients were undergoing treatment in the ICU, he said.
There were 15 patients on ventilator or oxygen. "Saving them was the priority. But due to their critical condition, to remove the oxygen support and bring them out was a tough decision," he said.
"After discussion, we decided to bring them out anyhow and later put them back on oxygen or other support systems," he added.
There was smoke everywhere, and a senior fire brigade official said that rather than flames, the smoke might have proven more lethal.
Most of those who died were aged between 65 to 83, according to hospital officials.
After a devastating blaze at a COVID-19 hospital in Nashik earlier this year, a fire audit had been carried out at this hospital.
Shankar Misal, Chief Fire officer of Ahmednagar municipal corporation, said they rushed two fire tankers immediately when the call came.
"The fire was not that big, but there was smoke all over the place. The patients who died in the incident possibly suffocated due to the smoke and heat inside the ICU," he said.
After the recent fire audit, the hospital had been asked to install an effective fire-fighting system including a pipeline and sprinkler system, he said.
But the work was incomplete due to "want of funds", though the hospital had fire extinguishers, he said.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)