At least 18 coronavirus patients died after a fire broke out at a hospital in Gujarat's Bharuch in the early hours on Saturday. Gut-wrenching visuals of the tragedy showed remains of some patients roasted alive on stretchers and beds. There were around 50 other patients at the four- storeyed Welfare Hospital when the fire broke out in the COVID-19 ward at 1 am. They were rescued by locals and firefighters, an official said.
'As per information at 6.30 am, the death toll in the tragedy stood at 18. Immediately after the fire, we had confirmation of 12 deaths,' a police official said.
The 12 patients in the COVID-19 ward died due to the fire and resultant smoke, Bharuch SP Rajendrasinh Chudasama said.
It is not clear if the remaining six also died in the Welfare hospital or while being shifted to other hospitals.
The COVID-19 designated hospital is situated on the Bharuch-Jambusar highway, around 190 km from the state capital Ahmedabad and is being run by a trust.
The cause of the fire is yet to be ascertained, the official said.
The fire was controlled within an hour and around 50 patients were rescued by locals as well as firefighters, a fire official said. They were shifted to nearby hospitals, he added.
PM Modi expresses condolences
Expressing pain over the fire incident, Prime Minister Modi in a tweet said, "Pained by the loss of lives due to a fire at a hospital in Bharuch. Condolences to the bereaved families."
Zuber Patel, the trustee of the hospital said, "It's an unfortunate incident not only for us but for the entire Bharuch. With the police and administration's help, we could shift patients to other hospitals. 14 patients and two staff nurses lost their lives in the incident."
Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani has announced to provide financial assistance of Rs 4 lakh to the families of each of the deceased.
"I express my condolences to the patients, doctors and hospital staff who lost their lives in the fire accident at Bharuch Hospital. The state government will provide assistance of Rs 4 lakh to the families of each of the victims of the accident," tweeted Rupani.
The Chief Minister has also directed two senior IAS officers of the state, Additional Chief Secretary for Labour and Employment Vipul Mitra and Commissioner Municipalities Rajkumar Beniwal, to immediately reach Bharuch and investigate the incident. He has also said that the state government is also taking action to hand over a judicial inquiry into the tragedy.