After they had talked to their relatives undergoing Covid-19 treatment the previous evening hearing that their condition was improving, family members of the victims of the fire tragedy at the Rajkot hospital were woken up on Friday by phone-calls informing them that their loved ones had died. Hours later, they found their kin’s bodies packed in bags, charred beyond recognition.
Police said that fire broke out in the intensive care unit (ICU) of the Uday Shivanand Covid Hospital near Anand Bungalow Chowk in Mavdi area of the city at around 12:30 am on Friday. The fire left dead five— Nitin Badani (61), a resident of Morbi town, Ramshi Loh (62), a resident of Jasdan town in Rajkot district, Rasiklal Agrawat, a resident of Godal town in Rajkot district, Sanjay Rathod (57), a resident of Prahlad Plot area of Rajkot city and Keshubhai Akbari (50), a resident of New Shakti Society of Rajkot.
Doctors said they had no time to react to the fire. “I was on my way back to the hospital when I got a call from my colleague informing me about the fire… By the time I reached the door of the ICU, it had turned into a ball of fire. Dr Hardik Vekariya who was inside the ICU told me that there was a small spark near Bed No.2 or 3 and the ICU was engulfed by the fire instantly. Lights went off and doctors, nursing and housing staff had no time to grab fire-extinguishers,” said Dr Hiren Vadhiya.
After the fire was doused at around 1 am, the hospital started making phone calls to relatives of the victims.
“At 3:30 am, I got a call from the hospital informing that there was a fire and asked me to rush to the hospital. While I leaving my relative’s house , I got another call from police saying that my father had died,” Badani’s Ankit said.
Badani, who had retired as an accountant from Sarvajanik Hospital, in of Surendranagar, had tested Covid-19 positive around two weeks ago and was admitted to a hospital in Morbi town. Later as his health deteriorated, his son shifted him to Uday hospital Sunday. “He had stopped taking food four days ago but doctors told me Thursday evening that his condition was improving,” Ankit said.
His grief only increased when he reached the government-run Pandit Deendayal Upadhyay Hospital. “I found it difficult to identify my father’s body as it had severe burns and had turned black. Eventually, I could identify him by his moustache,” Ankit said.
Sandhya Rathod, sister of Sanjay Rathod (57) was angry while grieving.
“A doctor from the hospital called at 3:30 am… The doctor asked me if I knew condition of Sanjay. I asked what had happened. The doctor asked me didn’t I know that he had died already… How was I to know that he had died in such a manner?” Sandhya, an advocate and notary, said. She said that she rushed to Dhakan Hospital on Kuvadva Road only to find a charred body of his brother who was an administrative officer from a private pharmacy college. “A hand and a wrist watch on it were the only identification marks of my brother,” Sandhya said,
Rathod was admitted to Uday hospital Tuesday his oxygen level was too low and he tested positive Wednesday. “I had gone to the hospital to deliver his dinner Thursday evening and we talked through a video-call. He seemed in good spirit,” said the advocate.
Agrawat, a retired storekeeper of Udyogbharati, an NGO working for rural empowerment, was admitted to Uday hospital Saturday. His son Rashmin couldn’t even share the news with his family.
“I was in Gondal when the hospital rang me up at 2 am informing me that my father had expired… But I couldn’t inform my mother as she has become weak due to not eating properly since my father was admitted. If I were to leave for Rajkot, she would have sensed it. I told my uncle to rush to the hospital,” Rashmin, who is in the publicity business said.
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