Five persons undergoing Covid-19 treatment were killed and six others were injured as a fire broke out in the intensive care unit (ICU) of a private hospital in Mavdi area of Rajkot city early on Friday.
Police said the fire broke out at Uday Shivananda Covid Hospital running out of the Shivanand General and Multi-specialty Hospital near Anand Bungalow Chowk around 12.30 am on Friday and rapidly spread in the ICU on the first floor of the three-storey building.
“Five patients died and six others were injured. The fire was put out within half an hour,” Rajkot city police commissioner Manoj Agarwal told The Indian Express. He said the exact cause of the death would be known only from post-mortem reports.
This is the third incident of fire in ICUs of hospitals in Gujarat in four months. Eight Covid-19 patients were killed after a fire broke out in the ICU of Shrey Hospital in Ahmedabad on August 6. On August 25, a fire broke out in the ICU of government-run GG Hospital in Jamnagar where nine non-Covid patients who were undergoing treatment were evacuated safely.
After Friday’s tragedy, Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted that he was “pained by the loss of lives”, while Chief Minister Vijay Rupani, who is from Rajkot, expressed grief over the incident and announced Rs 4 lakh ex gratia to the kin of the deceased, along with ordering a high-level inquiry into the incident.
Bhikha Theba, deputy chief fire officer of Rajkot, said that there were 33 patients in the Covid hospital. Eight fire tenders were rushed to the spot. “Three of them died on the spot while we rescued 30 and shifted them to Gokul hospitals on Vidyanagar Main Road and Kuvadva Road. The fire was put out within 30 to 45 minutes,” said Theba, adding that it appeared to have been caused by an “electric short-circuit”.
The victims were identified as 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 city.
While Badani was a retired accountant of a private hospital in Than, Agrawat was a retired storekeeper of Udyogbharati in Gondal. Loh was a retired assistant sub-inspector of police while Rathod had taken voluntary retirement from a private pharmacy college on November 11.
Rajkot municipal commissioner Udit Agrawal said that Loh, Akbari and Agrawat died on the spot, while two others died while undergoing treatment. “ We are told there was sparking in the ICU, leading to the fire. The hospital staff initially tried to douse the fire but couldn’t control it. As the fire spread, they informed the fire services,” said Agrawal.
Uday Shivanand Covid Hospital is run by Gokul Life Care Private Limited, a private entity which runs a chain of hospitals under brand name Gokul. In all, 33 Covid-19 patients were undergoing treatment in the Uday Shivanand Covid Hospital, Dr Tejas Karamta of Gokul Hospital said. Of them 11 were being treated in the ICU.
“There was a blast and within a minute, the entire ICU was burning. We managed to rescue 28 out of 33 patients, including six from the ICU. Patients in the ICU were on ventilators and they experienced hypoxia due to smoke in the room. We suspect there could have been some sparks due to electric short-circuit… as oxygen levels are high in ICUs, the fire spread very rapidly,” Dr Karamta added.
Of the three who died on the spot, bodies of two were found on their beds itself, suggesting that they could not move. The third patient was found dead on the floor.
“Extremely pained by the loss of lives due to a hospital fire in Rajkot. My thoughts are with those who lost their loved ones in this unfortunate tragedy. Praying for a quick recovery of the injured. The administration is ensuring all possible assistance to those affected,” Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted on the official handle of the Prime Minister’s Office.
Expressing grief over the deaths, Chief Minister Vijay Rupani announced Rs 4 lakh to the kin of each of the five victims. An official release from the government said that the CM also ordered a high-level inquiry by AK Rakesh, additional chief secretary (ACS) of Panchayat and Rural Housing Department.
The ACS visited the Uday Covid Hospital in the afternoon and said that the fire started either at Bed No.2 or No3 in the ICU. “The staff attempted to switch on firefighting system but due to smoke, they couldn’t do it and the fire spread rapidly. Firefighters reached within 15 to 20 minutes and doused the fire within the next 10 minutes,” he told media persons.
He added, “Firefighting systems in Covid hospitals should factor in the higher levels of inflammable oxygen… we shall come to know about the cause of the fire after electrical inspector and forensic experts submit their reports.”
Rajkot mayor Bina Acharya, who rushed to the hospital, said the hospital had due fire clearance and firefighting equipment were in place. “It had fire NOC and all the firefighting equipment. A bigger loss of lives has been prevented. I thank the firefighters for tackling the situation deftly,” said the mayor.
A case of accidental deaths was registered at Malaviyanagar police station even as Rajkot city police commissioner formed a special investigation team (SIT) headed by deputy police commissioner (zone-II) Manoharsinh Jadeja to supervise the probe into the incident.
The bodies of the victims were taken to the state government-run Pandit Deendayal Upadhyay Hospital in the city for postmortem. Their last rites were performed adhering to Covid-19 protocol.
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