Ten bodies were recovered and more than 70 coronavirus patients were moved to safety after a huge fire broke out last night at a mall in Mumbai that has a hospital. Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray sought "forgiveness" from the families of those who lost lives, adding that some of those who died "could not be saved because they were on ventilators".
Twenty-two fire engines were rushed to Dreams Mall's Sunrise Hospital last night when fire broke out at around 12:30 AM. More than 70 Covid patients were admitted to the hospital at the time of the incident; some of them were on ventilators. Officials have not yet confirmed the cause of the fire.
The Chief Minister said the hospital was temporarily allowed to treat Covid patients in the midst of the fight against the pandemic. "We have been fighting against coronavirus for the last one year. When the pandemic had hit the state, there were very few beds and ventilators but we continued our fight and we had set up temporary hospitals. This hospital was also allowed temporarily to treat coronavirus patients. The permission would have expired on March 31."
Assuring action, Mr Thackeray said: "I want to assure you that whoever is at fault, they will be punished. Firefighters did a great job in rescuing people. However, some people who were on ventilators could not be rescued. I seek forgiveness from their families," the Chief Minister added. The state has announced a compensation of Rs 5 lakh for the affected families.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in a tweet, said: "Pained by the loss of lives due to a fire at a hospital in Mumbai. I pray that the injured recover soon: PM @narendramodi".
In a statement this morning, the hospital had initially said that "there was no casualty due to fire". However, it later confirmed that some patients were missing following the incident, and efforts were on to identify and find them.
"There was a fire in first floor of Dreams Mall, Bhandup, and the smoke reached up to the Sunrise Hospital located at the top floor. All fire alarms beeped and hence all patients were safely evacuated due to the smoke to the fire refuge area. There were two dead bodies (due to Covid), which were also evacuated. There was no casualty due to fire. (sic)," the Sunrise Hospital said in a statement this morning.
"All patients were promptly shifted to Jumbo Covid Centre (and some to other private hospitals). We are grateful to Mumbai fire brigade and to Mumbai Police for helping us save lives. This hospital was started in exceptional circumstances of Covid last year and has helped in saving many patients from Covid deaths. It is functioning with all due compliances like fire license, nursing home licence. The hospital staff did a fantastic job in safely evacuating patients on wheel chairs and beds to the refuge areas and by following the fire drills," it added.
The incident comes at a time when India's financial capital is yet again seeing an upsurge in Covid cases. On Thursday, the city logged 5,504 new infections to post a new high. Maharashtra also recorded its biggest single-day surge in infections with 35,952 fresh cases.
Mumbai Mayor Kishori Pednekar had earlier told ANI, "This is the first time I have seen a hospital in a mall. This is a very serious situation. Seven patients were on ventilators. 70 patients have been taken to another hospital. There will be an investigation to confirm the cause of the fire."
(With inputs from ANI)