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At least 20 people, many of whom were being treated in intensive care unit and dialysis ward of SUM Hospital, a Bhubaneswar-based private hospital, were asphyxiated to death Monday evening as a spark from a electrical short cirtcuit turned into a major fire and the resultant smoke spread through the corridors in no time. The fire left at least 105 of the patients in the hospital gasping for breath and subsequent hospitalisation in nine different hospitals of Bhubaneswar and Cuttack.
WATCH VIDEO: Fire At Bhubaneswar Hospital Kills 19 Patients
Odisha health secretary Arati Ahuja, who visited SUM hospital Tuesday morning said 14 of the patients were declared brought dead at the government owned Capital Hospital while 5 succumbed to injuries at the private AMRI hospital. An elderly patient died at AIIMS Bhubaneswar Tuesday morning. The deceased included 9 women.
Fire services and police officials said a minor flame was first spotted near the dialysis ward, located on the first floor of the 1000-bed hospital at around 7.30 pm. Though the hospital staff tried to douse using two extinguishers, they gave up after 20 minutes, post which the fire brigade was called in. By then fire and smoke spread between the false ceiling and main ceiling of the second floor. The carbon monoxide gas from the fire travelled through the air-conditioner ducts to the ICU and dialysis wards quickly asphyxiating the hapless patients. “The air-conditioner ducts turned the hospital into death zone as they helped travel the poisonous gas,” said a hospital staff.
WATCH VIDEO: Bhubaneswar Fire: Fire Victims At Capital Hospital
Officials said all the 19 who died Monday evening must have been asphyxiated to death instantly. The last one who died this morning to died from the effects of inhaling the carbon monoxide gases.
When the gas spread through the corridors, the clueless doctors and paramedical staff lost precious time in evacuating the patients as they hoped that the fire would be controlled. “There was no one in my ward to help evacuate my son who is being treated for blood cancer in the hospital. I had to carry her and another old cancer patient on my own to the ground floor,” said Saibani Behera, a daily labourer from Khallikote block of Ganjam district.
As utter chaos prevailed in the hospital, the fire brigade staff broke through the window panes to evacuate the patients through slings and a Bronto skylift. It tok 6 fire engines more than two hours to to bring the fire under control. Locals and some hospital staff too joined in the evacuation. A fire brigade staff reportedly fell ill after inhaling the poisonous smoke. By the time the fire was controlled, the ICU and the dialysis ward was completely charred.
Assuring all help, PM Narendra Modi has sent air ambulances to Bhubaneswar through petroleum minister Dharmendra Pradhan for transportation of the serious patients to Mumbai and New Delhi. Chief minister Naveen Patnaik, who visited the injured patients at Capital Hospital and other hospitals yesterday and today said the State would take care of the treatment. He has ordered an inquiry by revenue divisional commisssioner and a separate probe by the Director Medical Education and Training.
Health secretary Arati Ahuja said post-mortem of all the 19 persons were completed at the Capital Hospital Monday night and vehicles have been provided to family members of the deceased persons to take the bodies back home.
Incidentally, the hospital has been accredited by NABH, a quality control body that has fire safety as one of the major issues before any certification is given. The NABH certification is valid for a period of 3 years.
The hospital is owned by Manoj Nayak, an engineer who started an engineering college in late Nineties and quickly became an educational entrepreneur setting up an university named Siksha O Anusandhan. He is reportedly close to several politicians of Biju Janata Dal. He also owns a TV news channel and Odia newspaper.
Director general of fire services Binay Kumar Behera also visited SUM hospital along with his officials for a preliminary probe.