International

India: 10 newborn babies killed in hospital blaze

Emergency services and staff were unable to reach the babies in time. Prime Minister Narendra Modi called the tragedy “heart-wrenching.”

Ten newborn babies were killed in a maternity unit in India early on Saturday after a fire broke out in major hospital, a doctor said.

The infants were 1 to 3 months old, the Press Trust of India news agency said.

The incident took place at the Bhandara District General Hospital in the western state of Maharashtra, nearly 1,000 kilometers (625 miles) south of New Delhi.

How did events unfold?

Nurses on duty noticed a fire coming from the hospital’s neonatal unit at around 1.30 a.m. local time (20:00 UTC, Friday) and raised the alarm.

Staff and emergency services rescued seven of the newborn infants hospital, Pramod Khandate, a senior doctor, told news agency AFP.

They were unable to reach the other 10 babies who were in a separate ward.

“Our staff extinguished the fire as soon as they could. The smoke led to the babies suffocating,” Khandate said.

The fire brigade stopped the blaze from spreading to other parts of the hospital and other patients were moved to safety.

What caused the fire?

A preliminary investigation suggests it was caused by an electrical short-circuit, said police officer V.S. Chavan, reported news agency AP. However, this is not confirmed.

Authorities have ordered an immediate inquiry into Saturday’s disaster.

‘Heart-wrenching’

“Heart-wrenching tragedy in Bhandara, Maharashtra, where we have lost precious young lives,” Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Twitter.

Opposition leader Rahul Gandhi called the deaths “extremely tragic.”

Home Minister Amit Shah expressed condolences in a tweet, adding: “I am pained beyond words.”

Previous hospital fires

More than 90 people died in an inferno in a Kolkata hospital in 2011.

A fire at a hospital in Ahmedabad in August killed eight coronavirus patients. Another five COVID-19 patients died in a blaze in a clinic in Rajkot in November.

The Supreme Court called for a report on safety in coronavirus hospitals, following these latest incidents.