Coronavirus | 15 COVID-19 patients die as fire engulfs ICU of hospital in Maharashtra’s Virar

Maharashtra CM Uddhav Thackeray orders probe; Opposition demands fire audit.

Updated - November 30, 2021 06:44 pm IST

Published - April 23, 2021 07:43 am IST - Virar (Maharashtra)

The fire broke out in the ICU of the hospital at Virar in Palghar district, early Friday, April 23, 2021.

The fire broke out in the ICU of the hospital at Virar in Palghar district, early Friday, April 23, 2021.

Fifteen COVID-19 patients were killed in a fire that swept through the intensive care unit of Vijay Vallabh Hospital in Virar, 50 km from Mumbai, early on Friday.

The tragedy comes less than a month after a fire in a hospital at Bhandup in Mumbai led to the death of nine COVID-19 patients.

Palghar district officials said 17 patients were in the ICU on the second floor of the four-storey hospital when the fire broke out around 3 a.m. Three fire tenders reached the spot immediately, and the fire was doused by 5.20 a.m.

“While 15 patients died in this tragedy, the remaining patients have been moved to other hospitals,” an official said. Some were sent to the Dahisar COVID Centre, run by the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation, and others to hospitals in Virar.

State Health Minister Rajesh Tope said Mr. Thackeray had ordered a detailed investigation to ascertain if the hospital had followed all safety norms.

Amid the ongoing surge in COVID-19 cases, Maharashtra has witnessed a series of hospital accidents this year. Two days ago, 24 COVID-19 patients on life support died after a leak in a medical oxygen tank disrupted the supply of the gas at Dr. Zakir Hussain Hospital in Nashik. In January, 10 infants died in a fire at the Bhandara District Hospital in Vidarbha.

PM condoles incident

Prime Minister Narendra Modi approved an ex gratia of ₹2 lakh. “The fire at a COVID-19 hospital in Virar is tragic. Condolences to those who lost their loved ones. May the injured recover soon,” Mr. Modi tweeted.

Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray announced an ex gratia of ₹5 lakh for the next of kin of the victims and ₹1 lakh to those injured in the Virar incident.

Leader of the Opposition and former Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis questioned the State government on its preparedness and successive announcements of conducting fire audits. After every incident, it is said that a fire audit will be conducted across the State. At a time when hospitals are running under pressure, the government seems to be avoiding its responsibility,” he said.

He demanded a time-bound fire audit of all the hospitals in the State.

Maharashtra Urban Development Minister Eknath Shinde announced a financial assistance of ₹5 lakh to the kin of the deceased residing in the Vasai Virar Municipal Corporation limits. He held a meeting with the Palghar District Collector, the Municipal Commissioner and other senior officials, directing them to conduct fire and electric audits of all hospitals within the municipal area.

Maharashtra Navnirman Sena chief Raj Thackeray asked whether the State administration had learnt lessons from the past incidents.

“After every incident it is said that fire audit will be conducted across the State. At a time when hospitals are running under pressure, the government seems to be avoiding its responsibility,” he said. The former chief minister has demanded a time-bound fire audit of all the hospitals in the State.

Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) chief Raj Thackeray too questioned whether the State administration had learnt lessons from the past incidents. “The government must immediately form a team of officials to conduct fire audits and take immediate action of problems encountered,” he said.

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