Fire in Saudi Maternity Ward Kills at Least 24

'We could hear the women screaming'
By Michael Harthorne,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 24, 2015 12:40 PM CST
Fire in Saudi Maternity Ward Kills at Least 24
Firefighters respond to a fatal fire Thursday at a hospital in Jazan, Saudi Arabia.   (Saudi Civil Defense via AP)

At least 24 people are dead—including one child—after a fire tore through the maternity and neonatal intensive care unit of a hospital in Saudi Arabia early Thursday, Reuters reports. The fire—which one witness says spread through the hospital in only minutes—occurred in the city of Jazan, one of the poorest areas in the country. "We could hear the women screaming," the BBC quotes one witness, who says an electrical fault caused the fire. An official investigation into the cause is still ongoing, the New York Times reports. According to Al Arabiya, more than 120 people were injured in the fire.

The hospital's emergency doors were locked with chains following the fire, and the hospital has been hit with safety violations in the past, Al Arabiya reports. "What happened in this hospital was a crime of murder," the brother of one victim says. "This hospital was not equipped at all to deal with a fire." A Saudi health official disputed those claims, saying that "many people had been able to escape easily from the blaze because the doors were open and safety equipment was in place." Following the fire, a number of people posted complaints about the area's infrastructure to social media, according to the BBC. (Read more Saudi Arabia stories.)

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