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Maharashtra hospital fire | ‘Victims’ kin complained of power fluctuations’

Charred: The blackened walls of Bhandara district hospital where a fire broke out on Saturday.   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

The families of some of the 10 infants killed in a fire that broke out at Bhandara district hospital on Saturday had complained about power fluctuations but no action was taken, a former State minister has alledged.

The scale and nature of the incident left the people of the city shaken and condolences poured in from various sections of society. While politicians, including current and former ministers, were allowed inside the building, scarcely anybody else was. Access was restricted as barricades were put up to keep the media away as restless crowds milled outside, anxious for information on the deaths of the infants, aged between one and three months, in the neonatal unit.

Hospital authorities were tightlipped, refusing to divulge any information on the tragedy that had made national headlines. As anxiety mounted, speaking to those allowed inside was the only way for reporters to get information and try and piece together the facts.

Former Maharashtra energy minister Chandrashekhar Bawankule of the BJP claimed that relatives of the infants had complained about power fluctuations in the ward for the last week.

“I spoke with relatives of the deceased infants. They told me that power fluctuations had been happening in the hospital ward since the last seven days. The relatives had asked the hospital staff to check the electric switches, but apparently no action was taken,” he said.

Demanding a high-level inquiry, Mr. Bawankule alleged that the hospital didn’t have proper fire safety and electrical equipment. He said a proposal to buy fire safety equipment worth over ₹1 crore sent by the hospital to the principal secretary, health, and director of health, is awaiting approval.

Covered in ash, dust

While most people were not allowed inside, photographs of soot and smoke from the ward gave an indication of the intensity of the fire and its aftermath. The walls were blackened, only the occasional patch of yellow showing through, the floor was thick with ash and dust and much of the furniture was charred. The metal stretchers and a few other accoutrements of a special hospital care unit such as the drip stand survived the fire, which broke out around 1.30 a.m. In the midst of the gloom shone a bright blue and white sign saying LED.

State Health Minister Rajesh Tope told reporters that at least three of the 10 infants died of burn injuries, while seven suffocated to death because of the smoke. District civil surgeon Pramod Khandate said there were 17 babies in the unit and seven were rescued. A nurse first noticed smoke coming out from the neonatal section and alerted doctors who reached there in five minutes, he said.

Fire brigade personnel rescued seven babies from the ‘inbound ward’ but could not save the 10 other babies. Mr. Khandate said the ward where newborns are kept requires a continuous supply of oxygen. “There were fire extinguishers and staff used them to douse the fire. There was too much smoke,” he added.

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Printable version | Jan 21, 2021 5:50:32 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/maharashtra-hospital-fire-victims-kin-complained-of-power-fluctuations/article33540517.ece

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