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24 hours on, no FIR yet in Shrey Hospital fire incident

The police said it was waiting for the probe report from the Forensic Science Laboratory (FSL) of the incident.

The fire incident took place around 3:30 am on Thursday at Shrey Covid hospital, situated in a residential area in Navrangpura of Ahmedabad. (Express photo by Nirmal Harindran)

Even after 24 hours no FIR has been lodged in the fire at the ICU of Shrey hospital where eight Covid-19 patients died on Thursday.

The 50-bed hospital that had signed an MoU with Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC) in May, to be reserved as a Covid-19 hospital had 49 patients under treatment.

The police said it was waiting for the probe report from the Forensic Science Laboratory (FSL) of the incident. Bharat Mahant, a hospital trustee and director, who was detained for questioning on Thursday, has also been released.

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Even as the FSL report is awaited, the Fire Safety Department of Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC) submitted its report to the police on Friday which stated that the hospital management had applied for a no-objection certificate (NOC) from the Fire Department in March 2020, however, it was delayed due to the impending lockdown amid Coronavirus pandemic.

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Speaking to The Indian Express, Ravindra Patel, deputy commissioner of police (DCP) Zone 1, Ahmedabad city, said, “We have received the fire department’s report and the FSL report is awaited after which it will be decided whether an FIR has to be lodged in this case or not. The fire department report says that the hospital management had refilled the fire fighting equipment installed on their premises this year in March which is valid till 2021. The hospital had also applied for the safety certificate which was delayed due to the lockdown.”

The fire incident took place around 3:30 am on Thursday at Shrey Covid hospital, situated in a residential area in Navrangpura of Ahmedabad where fire started in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) ward on the fourth floor of the hospital.

As many as eight Covid-19 patients admitted in the ICU ward died in the process, even as 41 other patients were rescued by firefighters from the first, second and third floor of the hospital and shifted to Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel (SVP) Hospital.

According to fire safety officials, thick smoke engulfed the ICU ward on fourth floor and the passage between third and fourth floor, resulting in the deceased patients getting suffocated to death and later getting charred due to the flames. The firefighters had to break open the window panes installed in the ICU ward and use blowers to blow out smoke in order to retrieve the bodies.

Another senior police officer told The Indian Express that the fire was first noticed by a ward boy at the ICU ward who saw sparks igniting fire in the hair of a Covid patient.

“The ward boy has informed us that the fire first started when there was a short circuit which resulted in sparks flying overhead of a Covid patient lying on a bed. The sparks then fell on the hair of the Covid patient who was sleeping at that time resulting in fire. Later, a male nurse approached the patient wearing a PPE kit to douse the fire but it also caught fire. It was then that the fire spread,” said the official.

However, a source in the fire department also told The Indian Express that the police are probing the medical health reports of the patients to find out if they were in the physical condition to run and save their lives and whether the hospital management staff make any efforts to raise an alarm and start an evacuation process of ICU ward patients in the first few minutes of fire incident.

Hitesh Sanghvi, additional director of the Directorate of Forensic Sciences (DFS), who is heading the FSL probe said his team has got several exhibits from the charred ICU which are being probed. He also informed that in this particular incident, the challenge was bigger for the fire department rescue team and FSL team because they had to enter a high temperature zone infected with coronavirus wearing enhanced safety kits.

“We have received numerous exhibits from the site which are being tested by our team. These exhibits will be analysed after the test to deduce the cause behind fire. This is first of a kind case where a Covid facility caught fire and sample collecting is extremely challenging in these circumstances,” said Sanghvi.

MF Dastoor, chief fire officer of the Fire Safety Department, was unavailable for a comment.

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