Twin fires kill 22 in India
> Most were critically ill patients trapped in hospital
NEW DELHI: At least 22 people have been killed in two fires in India, most of them patients who were trapped in the intensive care unit of a major hospital, officials said yesterday.
More than 40 critically ill patients were in the ICU of SUM Hospital in Bhubaneswar, capital of the eastern state of Odisha, when fire broke out on Monday night, apparently after an electric short circuit.
Authorities said 19 people had died in the blaze, mostly from smoke inhalation.
More than 100 patients were rescued by firefighters who smashed windows to get them out of the burning building.
Odisha’s health secretary Arti Ahuja said: “Some patients were evacuated by breaking a window on the first floor and then they were lowered to the ground floor.
“And some of them were evacuated through the adjoining operation theatre which was empty at that time.”
She told the NDTV news channel: “There are about 106 people who are (now) in different private and government hospitals.”
Two more people died early yesterday when a high-rise luxury apartment block in the western city of Mumbai caught fire.
Firefighters said 11 people had to be rescued from the blaze and two died of asphyxiation after they became trapped in the stairwell. The cause of the fire was not immediately clear.
Such disasters are relatively common in India, partly because of poor safety standards.
In 2011, more than 90 patients were killed at a private hospital in the eastern city of Kolkata when a fire raged through a private hospital, trapping many patients inside the building. Most died from inhaling toxic gases. Ahuja said the hospital in Odisha had been sealed off and a detailed inquiry would be carried out to establish the cause of the disaster.
Local television stations showed images of firefighters wearing masks smashing glass panes to enter the building.
Sharat Kumar Sahu, a police officer at the site of the blaze, said that the fire started in the dialysis ward in the fourstorey building and quickly spread to the intensive care unit.
The officer said more than 100 firefighters had battled the blaze for around five hours until it was brought under control. – AFP
Rescue workers try to help patients at the SUM Hospital building on Monday.