Four newborns have been killed in a fire that broke out in the intensive care ward of a public hospital in India’s central Madhya Pradesh state.
The tragic incident on Monday is the second hospital fire to hit the country in two days.
More than 40 infants were in the paediatric ward in Bhopal’s government-run Kamla Nehru hospital when the blaze started at the critical care facility, sparking chaotic scenes as anxious parents scuffled with police.
Police said the babies were killed by asphyxiation as they could not be rescued from the ward where the fire raged.
“There were 41 children in the ward. Four died in the fire while others were rescued and are stable,” police investigator Anil Bajpai told The National.
The children were rescued by hospital staff and emergency workers and admitted to nearby medical facilities, he said. Several doctors and nurses also suffered smoke inhalation during the rescue operation.
Local television stations broadcast visuals showing plumes of smoke rising from the hospital building as flames leapt into the air. More than 25 firefighters were called to douse the blaze, which was brought under control around midnight.
Visuals from inside the ward showed blackened walls and gutted equipment.
Authorities suspect an electric short circuit or a blast in an oxygen cylinder caused the blaze, but a thorough investigation has been ordered to determine the cause.
Many distressed parents scuffled with police and hospital staff in an attempt to enter the hospital as they anxiously waited for news about the safety of their children.
Police had sealed the hospital compound and evacuated the area during the rescue operation that lasted several hours.
State Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan expressed grief over the incident and promised assistance to the affected families.
The incident comes two days after 11 Covid-19 patients were killed after a blaze broke out in an intensive care unit in western Maharashtra state on Saturday.
Six patients were injured in the fire at the government-run hospital in Ahmednagar district, which an initial inquiry blamed on the lack of safety measures at the hospital.
Fires at hospitals have become a regular hazard across Indian cities, particularly during the coronavirus pandemic that almost caused India’s underfunded health care system to crumble.
More than 110 Covid-19 patients have died in more than 20 hospital fires across the country since August last year.
At least 10 newborns were killed in January after a blaze gutted a paediatric ward in Maharashtra state caused by an electric short circuit.