An explosion and fire in the intensive care unit at a hospital in Baghdad killed 82 people and injured 110, the Iraqi government said. The unit treats severe cases of COVID-19, and at least 28 of the patients killed were on ventilators, CBS reports. At least 200 people were rescued from the blaze. Firefighters and civil defense teams battled the fire on the second floor of Ibn al-Khatib hospital from Saturday night until early Sunday, when the fire was brought under control. Many patients being evacuated died when they were taken off oxygen machines, per the BBC. "Once the fire started, somebody needed to put the auto central pipes off, which means basically cutting the oxygen from those who need it most," an official of a health organization said. Others died of smoke inhalation. Family members were searching for patients Sunday. "Please, two of my relatives are missing," a woman posted on social media.
The prime minister immediately fired several officials, including the director of the hospital. He also declared a period of national mourning, per CNN. "Negligence in such matters is not a mistake, but a crime for which all negligent parties must bear responsibility," Mustafa al-Kadhimi said. He ordered an investigation to be completed within 24 hours. The Iraqi government's human rights commission called the fire "a crime against patients exhausted by COVID-19." The nation hit 1 million cases last week and is battling a second wave of infections. The daily number of confirmed new cases now runs about 8,000, the most since health officials began tracking them early last year. Hospitals are stretched to their limits. Ibn al-Khatib, which is in southeastern Baghdad, takes referrals from all over the country. The UN's representative to Iraq urged stronger safeguards in hospitals. (Read more Iraq stories.)