At least 22 people died at an Indian hospital on Wednesday after a leak in an oxygen tank interrupted supply to critical patients on ventilators.
During the half-hour oxygen disruption in Nashik city, in the western Indian state of Maharashtra, medical staff desperately tried to keep patients alive while oxygen was gushing out from a tank outside the hospital.
Videos taken at the site show health officials trying to contain the leak.
In another video, shot by a journalist, hospital staff is seen trying to revive patients.
The Zakir Hussain Municipal Hospital, where the incident took place, is a facility dedicated to treating COVID-19 and had about 150 patients dependent on oxygen or ventilators.
“The oxygen supply was stopped for half an hour due to the leak, because of which those on the ventilator lost their lives,“ the commissioner of the city’s municipal corporation, Kailash Jadhav, told the media. A city official, Suraj Mandhare, said that patients died because the pressure of oxygen dropped because of the leak.
Over the last week, India has become one of the world’s worst-hit pandemic hotspots.
As the country’s healthcare system gets overwhelmed, it has triggered a critical shortage of oxygen supply for its COVID-19 patients.
In Maharashtra, consumption of medical oxygen already reached the state’s full production capacity of 1,250 tonnes. The state currently has over 638,000 active cases, out of which 10 percent are on oxygen support. The state has also taken medical oxygen from other states.
This week, hospitals in India’s capital New Delhi – a city of 20 million people – declared that they only had a few hours of supply left before they would run out.
Indian media outlets have reported that some states that have oxygen-producing facilities are reluctant to release their supply, fearing they might face shortages.
News reports from central India say that some tanks of medical oxygen were “looted” by relatives of COVID-19 patients. The health minister of the northern Indian state of Haryana told news agency ANI that there had been incidents of people stealing tankers, prompting the need for police protection.
Several prominent Indian ministers, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi, have expressed their condolences following the Nashik tragedy.
India’s home minister Amit Shah tweeted, “I am distressed to hear the news of oxygen leak at a hospital in Nashik. I express my deepest condolences on this irreparable loss of those who have lost their loved ones in this incident. I pray to God for the efficiency of all the other patients.”
Maharashtra’s health minister Rajesh Tope told the media that an investigation is underway.
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