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Again, a Covid fire tragedy: 11 die in Maharashtra govt hospital ICU

As Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray ordered a probe and strict action against those found negligent, Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressed anguish over the loss of lives.

Written by Manoj Dattatrye More | Ahmednagar |
Updated: November 7, 2021 7:04:51 am
Pune fireThe ward of Ahmednagar District Hospital where the fire broke out on Saturday. (Express photo by Anil Shah)

At least 11 Covid-19 patients, most of them elderly, died after fire swept through an intensive care unit (ICU) of the district government hospital in Ahmednagar town of Maharashtra Saturday morning.

There were 17 patients in the ICU, which was opened last year, when the blaze broke out. While six were moved to safety, 11 patients died of asphyxia.

State ministers who rushed to the hospital said they were told by the hospital administration that an electrical short-circuit caused the fire, but the Fire Brigade said the hospital ignored shortcomings it had pointed out during two fire audits in the last six years.

The fire started in the ICU around 10.30 am. Only three staffers were present there at that time. Nurse Surekha Andhale told The Sunday Express that after they noticed the fire and raised an alarm, staffers from other wards rushed in and helped them move the patients out of the ICU.

“Within minutes of the fire, there was smoke in the ward. Some of us tried to use fire extinguishers but as the smoke had engulfed the ward, we had no option but rush the patients out of the ward. We succeeded in moving them out of the ward, but found that some of them had died, may be because the system shut down and oxygen supply to the ventilators got cut off,” she said.

The daughter of one of the patients said she was outside the ward when the commotion began: “I saw my father dying… his entire body was shaking. I could not do anything, nobody could do anything.”

Sunil Garad, son of one of the patients, said his father was admitted to a ward on the second floor which was also filled with smoke.

Pune fire Cops deployed at the hospital ((Express photo by Anil Shah)

“When I rushed to the ground floor, there was darkness and smoke. I helped move at least six patients out of the ward,” he said. “Most of the patients were gasping for breath.. They were trembling and shaking… Everyone was trying to bring the patients to safety by moving them out of the ward, and as a result the oxygen supply was cut off.”

District civil surgeon Dr Sunil Pokarna said 10 persons died on the spot while the 11th passed away in the afternoon.

The 19-bed ICU had been set up a year ago mainly for treating Covid patients, Dr Pokarna said.

District Guardian Minister Hasan Mushrif said the government will take some action against those found guilty. “If there was any negligence from the hospital administration, the government will certainly take stern action against them,” he said.

State Minister Jayant Patil, who inspected the ravaged ICU, said: “The fire apparently started after a spark. It started from a loose wire. I have been told that it was due to a short-circuit. We have appointed a probe committee. Only after the committee report is available, we will be able to reach any conclusion regarding the exact cause of fire… whether there was any human neglect.”

As Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray ordered a probe and strict action against those found negligent, Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressed anguish over the loss of lives.

In a Twitter post, Modi said: “Anguished by the loss of lives due to a fire in a hospital in Ahmednagar, Maharashtra. Condolences to the bereaved families. May the injured recover at the earliest.”

Ahmednagar district collector Rajendra Bhosale told media persons that around 10.30 am, fire was reported in a Covid ward in the new building of the civil hospital.

Among the 11 dead were Sitaram Dagdu Jadhav (83) of Bakhtapur, Shevgaon; Bhivaji Sadashiv Pawar ((80) of Kinhi village in Parner; Ramkisan Vitthal Harpude (70) of Maka village in Nevasa; Kondabai Madhukar Kadam (70) of Kedgaon; Chababi Ahmed Sayyad (65) of Shendi; Satyabhama Shivaji Ghodchaure (65) of Telkudgaon in Nevasa; Kadubal Gangadhar Khatik (65) of Patharvala in Nevasa; Asrabai Govind Nangare (58) of Shevgaon; Deepak Vishwanath Jagdale (37) of Sangamner.

After the fire was reported, the Ahmednagar fire brigade rushed three fire tenders and water tankers. Fire brigade personnel brought the situation under control after 45 minutes of fire-fighting.

Superintendent of Police Manoj Patil, who reached the civil hospital with police officers and personnel, said: “Ten persons have lost their lives (the 11th death was reported later) in the fire. Most are aged above 60 while one of them is in his late 30s. It is too early to comment on the exact cause of the fire. A thorough probe will be conducted into the sequence of events leading to the fire and causes behind it.”

State Health Minister Rajesh Tope described the incident as “extremely unfortunate”.

“We have declared financial assistance of Rs 5 lakh for each family,” Tope told The Sunday Express.

“Initial reports indicate that the fire was caused due to a short-circuit in the intensive care unit. The unit was set up a year ago and an inquiry will be conducted by a team led by the Divisional Commissioner. The team will include fire safety experts and others from the electrical division,” he said.

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