Twenty-two people were killed and 120 injured in a major fire at SUM Hospital in Bhubaneswar on Monday evening.
While 14 patients were declared “brought dead” at Capital Hospital, eight were “brought dead” to AMRI Hospital from the fire-struck private medical facility, officials said.
Capital Hospital superintendent Binod Kumar Mishra said, “We received 14 dead bodies, while five other patients were shifted from Sum Hospital.”
AMRI Hospital (Bhubaneswar) unit head Salil Kumar Mohanty said, “A total of 37 patients were received at our casualty ward. Our doctors have declared eight persons as brought dead.”
“Most of the victims were in the first floor ICU of SUM Hospital,” a doctor at the Capital Hospital said.
The condition of most patients shifted to different hospitals across Bhubaneswar and Cuttack was stated to be steady, even as one person died at AIIMS, Bhubaneswar, on Tuesday morning.
Earlier, after a verification, the death toll was put at 19 by the Odisha government on late Monday night.
Patnaik visits hospital
Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, who visited AIIMS, Bhubaneswar, and AMRI Hospital in the morning, said patients were recovering well. As many as 105 patients were getting intensive care treatment at nine hospitals.
Mr. Patnaik described the mishap as “very tragic“. He ordered an inquiry headed by a revenue divisional commissioner into the incident.
According to sources, the tragedy occurred due to suffocation as the smoke spread in most of the wards soon after the fire. Most of the victims, who were on oxygen support, died.
The fire was first spotted in the dialysis unit in the first floor of the hospital. Subsequently, hospital staff tried to douse the fire with two fire extinguishers for nearly 20 minutes.. When the situation went out of control, fire service personnel were called in. During the process, they lost the critical time for fire-fighting.
The smoke started spreading to different parts of the hospital through ducts of air conditioning and false ceiling.
Attendants of patients blamed the hospital authorities for lack of communication in the evacuation process.
“Till last minute, we were assured that fire would be brought under control and there was no need to shift out of the ward. But when smokes became suffocating, hospital staff fled the spot. We were left to evacuate our near and dear ones on our own,” said Bibhuti Bhushan Sahoo, who agonisingly moved his brother suffering from cancer down from fourth floor to a vacant place in front of the hospital. His brother Dipak Ranjan Sahoo was shifted to AIIMS, Bhubaneswar, after 30 minutes of wait for ambulance.
State Health Secretary Aarti Ahuja, who took stock of the situation, said dialysis, medicine and emergency wards had been sealed and a probe would immediately begin.
Binay Behera, Director General of Police (Fire Service) said a review meeting would be taken to ascertain if the hospital authorities had put fire safety measures in place.
“Orissa High Court has recently given an order to open fire safety units in every government hospitals and staff would have to undergo training to meet any eventuality. We will ascertain if the hospital authorities had trained the staff on fire- fighting skills, which is very important for saving critical time before fire brigade personnel arrive,” he said.
Health and Family Welfare Minister Atanu Sabyasachi Nayak said, “We have kept doctors on alert in both government and private hospitals in Bhubaneswar and Cuttack. We have appealed to every hospital to receive serious patients coming from SUM Hospital,” said
Mr. Nayak said the State government had already ordered a probe into the circumstances under which the fire broke out.
As per initial reports, short-circuit was believed to have caused the fire.
Some people were found to have sustained burn injuries.
“In an attempt to prevent suffocation from causing further damage, glass windows were immediately shattered by our volunteers and medical staff to make way for fresh air. Besides, critical patients were promptly evacuated,” Paresh Das, director of public relations of SOA University, told The Hindu .
Eyewitnesses said attendants were seen jumping from the first floor by breaking glass windows. Dozens of ambulances were mobilised to shift patients to hospitals across Bhubaneswar. Odisha Disaster Rapid Action Force has been deployed at different places to facilitate the smooth transfer of patients to different hospitals.
All necessary support is being given to Odisha: Nadda
Union Health Minister J.P. Nadda on Monday said the Centre was providing all necessary support to Odisha .
Dr. Nadda said he had spoken to the AIIMS in Bhubaneswar and asked it to provide all necessary help to the patients.
“Deeply saddened by the fire incident in Inst. of Medi Sciences & SUM Hospital Bhubaneswar. My condolences rest with the bereaved families.
“I have spoken to Director, AIIMS Bhubaneswar, to provide all necessary support and help the patients in the best way possible,” Dr. Nadda tweetedt.
He said that Union Health secretary C.K. Mishra had spoken to Odisha Health department officials and was in “constant touch” with them.
“Union Health Secretary has spoken to the Principal Secy Health, Orissa. Officials of @MoHFW_INDIA are in constant touch with state officials,” he said in his tweet.
PM expresses anguish
Prime Minister Narendra Modi voiced “deep anguish” at the loss of lives in the blaze, calling it “mind-numbing“.
“Deeply anguished by the loss of lives in the hospital fire in Odisha. The tragedy is mind-numbing. My thoughts are with bereaved families,” he tweeted.
“Spoke to Minister @JPNadda (Health Minister) & asked him to facilitate transfer of all those injured to AIIMS. Hope the injured recover quickly.
“Also spoken to Minister @dpradhanbjp and asked him to ensure all possible help to the injured and affected,” he said in a series of tweets.
(With inputs from PTI)