Fire at hospital in Iraq claims several lives

At least 19 killed in massive Baghdad hospital fire

Among the dead were at least 28 Covid-19 patients on ventilators, Ali al-Bayati, a spokesman for the country's independent Human Rights Commission, a semi-official body, said on Twitter.

NPR reported that the fire was caused by the explosion of an oxygen cylinder.

In a statement, the IHCHR called on the Iraq government to take a "responsible position" following the hospital fire, saying the incident was a "crime against patients who were forced by the severity of the disease as a result of Covid-19 infection to be hospitalized".

On Wednesday, the number of detected Covid-19 cases in Iraq surpassed one million, the highest of any Arab state.

People from all over Iraq are referred to the hospital in southeastern Baghdad, including many with Covid-19.

Negligence on the part of hospital authorities has been blamed for Saturday night's blaze, which initial reports suggested was caused when an oxygen cylinder exploded in a ward at the Ibn al-Khatib hospital.

Medical and security sources told AFP some 50 others were injured in the blaze, and the civil defence said it "rescued 90 people out of 120 patients and their relatives".

Social media videos showed a chaotic scene as firefighters scrambled to put out the blaze and health workers tried to evacuate patients.

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The Iraqi government has also opened an investigation into the incident.

Baghdad governor Mohammed Jaber also called on the health ministry "to establish a commission of enquiry so that those who did not do their jobs may be brought to justice".

In response to the fire, Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi fired the director-general of the Baghdad Health Department in the al-Rusafa area, where the hospital is located.

Both the health minister and the governor will be questioned in connection to the hospital fire, according to a statement released by al-Kadhimi's office.

United Nations envoy to Iraq, Jeannine Hennis-Plasschaert, expressed his "shock and pain".

Many ambulances were rushing towards the hospital, ferrying away those hurt by the fire, a Reuters photographer nearby said.

The country launched its vaccination campaign last month, and has received almost 650,000 doses of different vaccines, the majority by donation or through the Covax programme, which is helping lower and middle income nations to procure vaccines.

Around 300,000 people had received at least one dose as of Sunday, the ministry said.

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