Mumbai: At least 14 Covid patients died in a major fire at a Covid centre in Virar, Maharashtra's Palghar district, in the wee hours of Friday. The fire broke out at around 3 am in the ICU on the second floor of the four-storeyed Vijay Vallabh Hospital which had 17 Covid patients. According to the sources, the cause of fire seems to be a short circuit in an air conditioning unit of the hospital. The surviving patients under critical care have been moved to nearby hospitals in Mumbai.
Maharashtra home minister Dilip Walse Patil ordered a thorough probe by the Maharashtra Director General of police (DGP). The Maharashtra government also announced Rs 5 lakh compensation each to the legal heir of the deceased. The government will also provide Rs 1 lakh to those who have serious injuries.
Maharashtra chief minister Uddhav Thackeray expressed grief over the incident and directed the administration to make arrangements for the treatment of those people who were admitted to the Vijay Vallabh Hospital.
“The cause of the fire should be investigated properly. The administration has been instructed to see whether the appropriate fire safety measures were taken in the hospital,” Mr Thackeray said.
Surendra Singh Raj of Satyamev Jayate, an NGO based in Vasai and Virar, alleged that most of hospitals including this hospital in Vasai and Virar did not have fire safety equipment, fire alarm and smoke detectors.
Relatives of the victims reached the hospital soon after they got to know of the incident and demanded that stringent action be taken against those responsible for the tragedy.
TV visuals showed the smoke-filled ICU in a disarray after the blaze, with the ceiling falling off in some places, beds and other furniture strewn around and kin of the deceased wailing outside the hospital.
In his tweet in Marathi, the state home minister said, “A fire broke out in the intensive care unit of Vijay Vallabh Hospital in Virar, killing 13 patients. The incident is very unfortunate and painful. A heartfelt tribute to the victims of the accident! The Director General of Police has been directed to conduct a thorough inquiry into the incident.”
Leader of Opposition in Maharashtra Devendra Fadnavis also demanded an in-depth inquiry and strong action against the people responsible for the incident.
The tragedy comes two days after 22 Covid patients who were either on ventilator or oxygen support, suffocated to death when their oxygen supply stopped suddenly due to a malfunction in the main storage at a civic hospital in Nashik.
Earlier, on the intervening night of March 25-26, nine Covid patients had died in a fire that broke out in Mumbai's Dreams Mall, which housed a Covid-designated hospital on its third floor.