At 7.20 pm Monday, when the first spark was seen near the dialysis ward of the SUM Hospital, 22-year-old Amol Patra was waiting outside the ICU of the hospital. His mother Rajani, diagnosed with a tumour in her brain, and 13 others were in the ICU.
“I heard a shriek. I knew something was wrong, I wanted to go to the ICU to see my mother. The guards prevented us from going in, so we pleaded that they call the doctors. But then smoke filled the corridor and started entering the ICU. My brother and I told the guard to let us in. No one listened,” Amol recalled, as he fought back tears.
WATCH VIDEO: Fire At Bhubaneswar Hospital Kills 19 Patients
Two hours later, Rajani was brought out of the ICU through a window that had to be smashed. She was taken to a nearby hospital where doctors declared her brought dead. “Did I bring my mother to the hospital to see her die like this?” Amol’s brother Santosh Patra said.
From Kanheipur village in Khurda district, Rajani was moved to SUM Hospital only last week.
Like Rajani, P Kalyani Patro died of asphyxia in the ICU. From Kabisuryanagar, she was admitted to the SUM Hospital on October 13 and was to be moved out Tuesday. “The staff did not allow us to enter the ICU and bring her out though I kept pleading,” said her son-in-law Arjun Patro. “We were driven out after thick smoke emanated from the dialysis ward.”
Lingaraj Chhotray, an ITI student who was admitted in the plastic surgery ward of the hospital on the third floor, said he had given up hope of emerging alive. His right foot had to be amputated after he fell from a train on his way home.
“The nurses and securitymen were running helter-skelter. We were told to fend for ourselves. My sister and a cousin of my brother-in-law somehow put me on a wheelchair and took me down the ramp. More than the smoke, I was worried about something else: what if the wheelchair trips and I fall,” Chhotray said. His father, who had returned home, ran back to the hospital after TV channels began reporting the hospital fire. Chhotray ended up at AIIMS Bhubaneswar — after he spent over an hour on the road.
Daily wager Saibani Behera, whose son Ajit was diagnosed with leukaemia, carried him and dragged an elderly man to safety from the oncology ward. “The guards said there is nothing to worry. But as smoke started entering the corridor, they fled. All along, I was wondering how to take my son to safety. On the next bed was a 60-year-old man. I grabbed my son and somehow dragged the old man through the corridor,” Behera said.