Fire at Iraqi Covid hospital kills more than 80, sparks anger

Hospital Fire Kills 82 Sparks Humanitarian Crisis in Iraq

The cause of the fire is not known but the Iraqi Civil Defense Directorate said extinguishing work in the hospital was complete and an investigation was initiated.

People from all over Iraq are referred to the hospital in southeastern Baghdad, including many with Covid-19.

"A statement issued online by Oman News Agency (ONA), said that the fire occured due to the explosion of oxygen cylinders being stored at a hospital housing a number of Covid-19 patients in the south of the Iraqi capital of Baghdad".

One of the victims of the fire, Ali Ibrahim, 52, had been treated for Covid-19 at Ibn al-Khatib and was buried by his family on Sunday at Zaafaraniya, a neighbourhood near the hospital.

Widespread negligence on the part of health officials is to blame for the fire, Iraq's prime minister, Mustafa al-Kadhimi, said Sunday.

"The hospital had no fire protection system and false ceilings allowed the flames to spread to highly flammable products", the civil defence said.

More than 200 patients in all were rescued, according to the health ministry, which pledged to release an official toll of the dead and wounded later.

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At least two doctors at the scene confirmed they believed the oxygen cylinder had caused the flamed that raged in the second floor of the hospital.

Baghdad governor Mohammed Jaber also called on the health ministry "to establish a commission of enquiry so that those who did not do their jobs may be brought to justice".

Meanwhile, the country's head of government has suspended Health Minister Hassan al-Tamimi, but NGOs and activists are calling for his sacking. He also fired the director of Ibh al-Khatib Hospital and its director of engineering and maintenance, according to a statement from the Health Ministry and his office.

The United Nations envoy to Iraq, Jeannine Hennis-Plasschaert, expressed "shock and pain" over the fire in a statement and called for stronger protection measures in hospitals.

Rather than go to overcrowded or run-down hospitals, patients who can afford it have often set up oxygen tanks at home.

The health ministry has since recorded a total of 1,025,288 cases of the disease and 15,217 deaths. Witnesses said people jumped out of windows to escape the blaze.

Although Iraq has received numerous vaccines, through government purchases and foreign donations, demand for the shots remains sluggish.

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