At least 82 people were killed in a fire at Ibn al-Khatib Hospitall Saturday night in Iraq’s capital city of Baghdad. The fire started after some oxygen tanks exploded. Another 110 people were injured in the blaze. The hospital had no smoke detectors and the blaze spread faster because its false roofs were flammable. A chaotic scene was described, as firefighters scrambled to put out the blaze and health workers tried to evacuate patients. Local residents joined rescue efforts through the night, using light from their cell phones to illuminate. Many of the victims were Covid-19 patients. “Civil defense teams are still at the scene of the accident, investigating the causes that led to this fire, which caused the loss of the lives of many of patients and their companions,” according to a statement released by Iraq’s Health Ministry earlier Sunday.
Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi said the hospital fire was “a crime” and insisted those responsible should be held accountable. He added that he had ordered results of investigation to be known within 24 hours. The United Nations Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Iraq, Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert, expressed “shock and pain at the enormity of the tragic incident.” President Barham Salih described the tragedy as a “wound for the whole nation.” Three days of national mourning were declared. Iraq is in the worst phase of its coronavirus pandemic, averaging around 8,000 new cases daily. In 2019, Iraq allocated just 2.5 percent of its $106.5 billion budget to its Health Ministry.