Ten babies have died after a fire broke out at a hospital in Maharashtra at around 2 AM. Prime Minister Narendra Modi condoled the deaths and called the incident a "heart-wrenching tragedy".
Seventeen babies were admitted at the Special Newborn Care Unit (SNCU) of the four-storeyed hospital in Maharashtra's Bhandara district, about 900 km from the state capital Mumbai, at the time of incident. Seven of them, who were admitted to the inborn ward of the unit, were rescued; those in the outbound ward couldn't be evacuated to safety.
In a tweet, PM Modi wrote: "Heart-wrenching tragedy in Bhandara, Maharashtra, where we have lost precious young lives. My thoughts are with all the bereaved families. I hope the injured recover as early as possible (sic)".
Heart-wrenching tragedy in Bhandara, Maharashtra, where we have lost precious young lives. My thoughts are with all the bereaved families. I hope the injured recover as early as possible.— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) January 9, 2021
All of those who died were aged between a few days and three months, as per reports. "Ten children died in a fire that broke out at the SNCU of Bhandara District General Hospital at 2 am today. Seven children were rescued from the unit," District civil surgeon Pramod Khandate said. Nurses on duty first noticed smoke coming out from the neonatal care unit, according to reports, and raised alarm.
"Our staff extinguished the fire as soon as they could. The smoke led to the babies suffocating," Dr Khandate said. While the cause of the fire is yet to be confirmed, a short circuit is believed to have set off the blaze. Patients admitted to other wards were shifted safely.
Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray spoke to Health Minister Rajesh Tope, and he has also ordered a probe into the incident. "The Chief Minister has ordered a probe in the entire incident. He spoke to the district collector and police superintendent and asked them to probe the fire," his office said in a statement.
"As I have been told, a short circuit caused the fire. The staff - nurses, ward boys - saved seven babies. Seven newborns died due to suffocation, and three others died due to the blaze," Health Minister Rajesh Tope said. The families have been given bodies without postmortem, he added. Deputy Chief Miister Ajit Pawar has ordered an audit of the neonatal care units of all government and private hospitals. Home Minister Anil Deshmukh has asked the district officials to submit a report.
The state government has also announced a compensation of Rs 5 lakh. "Whoever is at fault will be punished. We will take all the precautions needed to prevent such incidents in future," Mr Tope stressed.
Home Minister Amit Shah, Health Minister Harsh Vardhan tweeted condolences.
The fire accident in Bhandara district hospital, Maharashtra is very unfortunate. I am pained beyond words. My thoughts and condolences are with bereaved families. May God give them the strength to bear this irreparable loss.— Amit Shah (@AmitShah) January 9, 2021
Spoke to Maharashtra Health Minister Sh @rajeshtope11 ji regarding the most unfortunate incident at Bhandara district hospital where innocent children died in a fire incident. Deepest condolences to the families. Prayers for the safety of innocent new borns who could be rescued. https://t.co/p9r0MIIT1W— Dr Harsh Vardhan (@drharshvardhan) January 9, 2021
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi appealed to the state government to provide all possible assistance to the families affected.
Earlier, a fire at a hospital in Gujarat's Ahmedabad in August killed eight coronavirus patients. Another five Covid-19 patients died in a blaze in a clinic in Rajkot in November.
(With inputs from AFP, ANI, PTI)