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Oxygen tank leak in Nashik hospital kills 24, CM Uddhav orders high-level inquiry

While 13 of the dead were 60-plus, the remaining were aged between 33 and 60 years. Twelve women were among the dead.

Written by Zeeshan Shaikh | Mumbai, Nashik |
Updated: April 22, 2021 2:28:23 am
An Oxygen tanker leaked while tankers were being filled at Dr Zakir Hussain Hospital in Nashik.

Twenty-four Covid-19 patients died at a hospital run by the Nashik Municipal Corporation on Wednesday after oxygen supply was disrupted due to a leakage in the main oxygen storage tank.

While 13 of the dead were 60-plus, the remaining were aged between 33 and 60 years. Twelve women were among the dead.

The 150-bed Dr Zakir Husain Hospital, which was converted into a dedicated Covid hospital last year, had 157 patients at the time of the incident, including 15 on ventilator and 131 on oxygen support. Of these, 61 patients had been listed as critical.

The 13-kilolitre oxygen tank was made operational only on March 31 this year.

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“As per preliminary information, the socket of the… oxygen tank broke, which led to leakage in the tank and affected oxygen supply. The hospital staff used jumbo cylinders to help patients. Some patients who could be moved were taken to other hospitals. However, 22 patients died as supply was cut off suddenly,” Nashik Divisonal Commissioner Radhakrishna Game said earlier in the day.

Two more patients died in the evening, taking the toll to 24.

The state government announced a probe by a seven-member committee. Maharashtra Health Minister Rajesh Tope said the panel would be headed by Game. “If anyone is responsible for the deaths, they will face legal action,” he said.

Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray announced a compensation of Rs 5 lakh each to the families of the dead. Chhagan Bhujbal, Maharashtra Food and Civil Supplies Minister as well as guardian minister of Nashik district, said the Nashik Municipal Corporation would also give Rs 5 lakh each to the families.

The moment the oxygen started leaking from the tank during refilling.

While the Nashik Municipal Corporation had cleared the proposal to set up a liquid oxygen tank at the hospital in September last year, it was made operational only on March 31 this year. A private company, Taiyo Nippon Sanso, was roped in to set up and operate it.

The leakage was noticed around 12.30 pm, when relatives of patients started complaining about a disruption in oxygen supply.

“It so happened that at the time of the leakage, a refilling truck with technicians arrived at the spot. With their help, we were able to stop the leak. We managed to save around 25 per cent of the oxygen and supply was restored by around 2 pm,” said Kailash Jadhav, Commissioner, Nashik Municipal Corporation.

However, relatives of patients said they were left to fend for themselves in the two-hour period when supply was disrupted. “I saw my brother die in agony. I cannot live with the memory of seeing so many people die at the same time. They were calling out for help and we could not do anything for them,” said Nitin Welukar, brother of Pramod Welukar (45) who died.

While some tried to source oxygen tanks from outside, others shifted patients to neighbouring hospitals. “There was total pandemonium as people were running around. The presence of so many relatives of patients inside the ward also created problems for the staff. It was chaotic, as everyone was trying to help their loved ones, including removing oxygen cylinders from those who had died to give to their relatives,” said Zubair Hashmi, a social worker who was present inside the ward.

Thackeray said the incident was “shocking and painful” and would be thoroughly investigated. “Those responsible will not be spared. But nobody should politicise this unfortunate incident. This is an attack on Maharashtra. Maharashtra is mourning over the Nashik tragedy,” he said.

Tope said an “SOP on management of oxygen plants and storage tankers” would be drawn up.

President Ram Nath Kovind, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Congress leader Rahul Gandhi were among those who expressed grief and condoled the deaths.

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