82 People Killed in Fire Caused by Exploding Oxygen Tank at COVID Hospital

More than 100 people were injured in the fire at Baghdad’s Ibn al-Khatib hospital.
At Least 82 People Killed in Fire Caused by Exploding Oxygen Tank at COVID Hospital
Mourners at a funeral of one of the victims of Saturday's fire. Photo: ALI NAJAFI/AFP via Getty Images

A fire ignited by an oxygen canister that exploded at a hospital treating COVID patients in Baghdad has killed 82 people, with 110 others injured.

A fire broke out in the Ibn al-Khatib hospital’s ICU unit on Saturday night, spreading across the whole floor.

Photo: Murtadha Al-Sudani/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Photo: Murtadha Al-Sudani/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Patients were rushed out on hospital beds and transferred to nearby medical facilities.

Footage taken by gathered crowds and shared on social media showed people fleeing the building as firefighters tried to control the blaze. The fire was not under control until Sunday morning.

Advertisement

Mustafa Kadhimi, Iraq’s caretaker prime minister, has suspended the country’s health minister and ordered an investigation into the incident to be completed within five days.

Kadhimi blamed the fire on “negligence.”

A man sits near oxygen canisters outside the hospital as he waits for news on his wife, a COVID patient at the hospital. Photo: AHMAD AL-RUBAYE/AFP via Getty Images

A man sits near oxygen canisters outside the hospital as he waits for news on his wife, a COVID patient at the hospital. Photo: AHMAD AL-RUBAYE/AFP via Getty Images

Speaking to state-run TV station al Iraqiya, Maj. Gen. Khadhimi Bohan, the head of Iraq’s civil defence, said that the area where the fire broke out where COVID patients were being treated did not have any fire safety measures in place.

“If there had been smoke detectors, the situation would have been different,” he said. 

Family members of those who lost loved ones mourn near the hospital. Photo: Murtadha Al-Sudani/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Family members of those who lost loved ones mourn near the hospital. Photo: Murtadha Al-Sudani/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Many family members of patients gathered around the hospital on Sunday, waiting for news on their loved ones. 

Kadhimi has promised to compensate families, and vowed to "identify the negligent people and hold them accountable, regardless of their titles.”

“Such an incident is evidence of negligence, and therefore I directed that an investigation be launched immediately and for the hospital’s manager and the heads of security and maintenance to be detained along with all those concerned until we identify those negligent and hold them accountable,” a statement from the prime minister’s office said.

The Iraqi healthcare sector is extremely under-funded, following years of economic embargoes, corruption and mismanagement. Last month Iraq received nearly 650,000 doses of the COVID vaccine under the global Covax programme. But the vaccination rollout faces issues due to a lack of trust in the government.

A woman clears near oxygen bottles removed from the hospital. Photo:

A woman clears near oxygen bottles removed from the hospital. Photo: AHMAD AL-RUBAYE/AFP via Getty Images

Saturday’s fire has provoked nationwide anger, which could give Kadhimi enough ammo to fire several corrupt officials.

Still, it would take more to go after health minister Hassan al-Tamimi, who is backed by the influential and controversial Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr in Iraq’s power-sharing government.