BAGHDAD — At least 82 people, many of them older Covid-19 patients, were killed when fire blamed on an exploding oxygen cylinder swept through a Baghdad hospital unequipped with smoke detectors late on Saturday, according to Iraq’s Interior Ministry.
The fire broke out in an intensive care unit of the hospital and spread partly because of flammable false ceilings in the wards, the head of Iraq’s civil defense forces, Maj. Gen. Kadhim Bohan, told the state-run Iraqiya TV.
“There were no smoke detectors,” General Bohan said. “If there had been smoke detectors, the situation would have been totally different.”
Another 110 people were injured, said an Interior Ministry spokesman, Khaled al-Muhanna.
A witness quoted by Reuters news agency said that patients and medical workers had jumped out of second-story windows to escape the flames. Some relatives outside the hospital ran back in to try to rescue their loved ones, Reuters reported.
General Bohan said that some of the victims were older patients on respirators who could not move from their beds when the fire started.
Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi ordered hospital managers detained for questioning and ordered an investigation into possible negligence at the hospital.
Awadh al-Taiee and Nermeen al-Mufti contributed reporting.