According to Iraqi state media 64 people are known to have died in a major fire at a hospital treating coronavirus patients in the south of the country. It appears the fire was caused by the explosion of oxygen tanks.
The hospital building was newly opened just three months ago. It seems the hospital was unable to withstand the force of what was likely to be an oxygen tank explosion. Quickly, the front door was burning and the backdoor was closed so people couldn’t get out.
A witness says people were stuck inside and then the ceiling fell on them. The flames soared high and spread fast. Rescue workers were unable to make it through the thick smoke. People were struggling to fight the fire to save those trapped inside fighting COVID-19.
The pandemic was already proving too much for Iraq’s woeful health system to cope with. This is the second such tragedy in a matter of months. In April more than 80 people died after an oxygen cylinder exploded at a coveted hospital in Baghdad.
NEAR-MISS is an opportunity to learn and to implement adequate risk control measures to prevent similar incident in the future. The incident should be recorded as a potential hazard that, luckily, did not result in any injury or loss this time. The point is, you can not depend on luck to be safe!
Crystal Tower had over 100 residents. Zen Sadavarte, who was a class-3 student then, was sleeping when her mother spotted the smoke at around 8 am. Zen was trapped on the 12th floor of the 16-storied-building where the fire had started. However, without getting deterred Zen showed presence of mind and applied the safety tips taught to her in the school.
Upon spotting fire, as everybody rushed out for safety, an asthmatic girl was feeling breathless. Upon hearing her mother cry Zen quickly took pieces of cloth from her house, wet them and urged her family and neighbors to cover their noses with them and breathe through it. It is remarkable indeed that a 10-year-old girl remembered this fact and urged the 17 people around her to follow it, which kept them safe till they were rescued.
Because of the smoke and heat on the 12th floor, the people on upper floors were also trapped.
Fire personnel said that while the flames were raging, some of the inhabitants tried to use the lift to escape. However, after the fire doused two dead bodies were recovered from the lift on the 12th floor.
About 30 Stranded peoples were rescued with the help of special appliances and building stairway by firemen.
Four residents of the building including an elderly woman identified as Subhadha Shelke (62) died due to suffocation while 16 others suffered suffocation.
What Went Wrong?
It has been observed that the firefighting system of the tower was not in working condition.
Electrical wiring in the duct area of the building may have caused the fire on the 12th floor.
Electric duct was not sealed at each floor level.
Dense smoke spread on upper floors.
There were fire extinguishers on the 12th floor but they were not operational.
Sources in the fire department said that according to the residents the fire was an outcome of blast in the compressor of an air conditioning unit.