Iraq hospital fire kills more than 90 in COVID-19 ward

Iraq hospital fire kills more than 90 in COVID-19 ward
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A fire that broke out in an Iraq hospital's COVID-19 ward on Monday has killed more than 90 people, according to the most recent reports.

Iraqi health officials have said that more than 100 people have also been injured in the blaze that consumed the al-Hussein Teaching Hospital in the city of Nasiriyah, The Associated Press reports. Relatives of patients at the hospital were searching through the debris for evidence of their loved ones on Tuesday morning.

The COVID-19 ward at the hospital was opened just three months ago and had 70 beds, the AP notes.

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One man at the scene, Haidar al-Askari, told the AP, "The whole state system has collapsed, and who paid the price? The people inside here. These people have paid the price."

Officials have blamed the fire on an electric short-circuit, though more details have not been released.

Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi convened an emergency meeting in response to the fire and has ordered the suspension and arrest of the health directors of Dhi Qar Province and al-Hussein hospital, according to NPR. The government will also launch an official investigation into the fire.

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Iraq is currently experiencing another surge in COVID-19 cases, with daily new cases peaking at 9,000 last week. The AP notes that several decades of wars and sanctions have crippled the country's health systems.

According to the World Health Organization, Iraq has confirmed over 1.4 million COVID-19 cases and more than 17,000 related deaths. Around 1 million COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered in the country that has a population of nearly 40 million.