64 People killed as oxygen tanks explode in COVID isolation ward in Iraq

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Blaze at the Iraq hospital.

As many as 64 people have been killed in a fire at the coronavirus isolation ward of a hospital in Iraq, the second such deadly blaze in a COVID-19 unit in three months, state news agency INA said on Tuesday.

More than 100 were also injured in the fire that broke out at the al-Hussein Teaching Hospital in the southern city of Nasiriya late on Monday, health officials said. The blaze was brought under control by civil defence teams.

A medical source with the health directorate told AFP news agency the “main reason behind the fire… was the explosion of oxygen tanks”.

Haydar al-Zamili, the local health authority’s spokesperson, said earlier on Tuesday that 52 bodies had been retrieved while 22 people had been hurt after the fire had “ripped through the COVID isolation ward”.

“The victims died of burns and the search is continuing,” he added, noting that there were fears people could still be trapped inside the building.

He said that the new ward opened just three months ago, contained 70 beds.

The Dhi Qar health directorate said that among the 64 people killed were two medical staff members and the hospital’s security guard.

Health sources told Reuters news agency the death toll could rise as many patients were still missing.

Health officials at Nasiriya said search operations at the hospital were continuing, but that thick smoke was making it difficult to enter some of the burned-out wards. Footage shared online showed thick clouds of smoke billowing from the hospital buildings.

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