Maha govt hospital blaze kills 10 new-born infants (Lead)

Bhandara (Maharashtra), Jan 9 (IANS) In a shocking tragedy, at least 10 new-born infants were suffocated in a fire that erupted in the children’s ward of a government hospital in Maharashtra’s Bhandara district early on Saturday morning, officials said.

The fire, due to a suspected electrical short-circuit, erupted around 1.45 a.m. when the mothers and relatives of the infants were fast asleep and quickly engulfed the Sick & Newborn Care Unit of the Bhandara District General Hospital.

Around that time, a nurse on duty happened to pass by the ward, noticed the smoke inside and raised an alarm as other hospital staffers rushed to the spot.

At least 10 infants — a majority of them less than 3-months-old — had perished due to suffocation and another 7 were saved.

Though the police have not declared the cause of the blaze, it is suspected that an electrical short-circuit led to an air-conditioner blast, followed by a fire with thick smoke billowing in the ward and the resultant deaths due to suffocation.

Taking strong note of the shocking incident, Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray ordered an investigation into the cause of the fire in the district, around 900 km from Mumbai.

Expressing anguish over the tragedy, the Chief Minister also discussed the matter with Health Minister Rajesh Tope and district authorities and said stringent punishment must be given to those found responsible.

Thackeray and Tope have also spoken to the Collector and Superintendent of Police of Bhandara and directed them to take up immediate relief measures.

District Surgeon Dr. Pramod Khandate told mediapersons that the hospital staff and fire brigade managed to rescue 7 infants from the ‘inbound ward’ after battling the blaze with fire-extinguishers.

Meanwhile, President Ram Nath Kovind, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Union Home Minister Amit Shah, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, District Guardian Minister Vishwajeet Kadam, Maharashtra Leaders of Opposition Devendra Fadnavis and Pravin Darekar, other senior leaders have expressed grief over the incident.

“I am deeply shocked by the fire incident in Bhandara. My heartfelt sympathies with the families of those who have lost their infants in the tragedy,” Kovind said.

“Heart-wrenching tragedy where we have lost precious young lives. My thoughts are with all the bereaved families. I hope the injured recover as early as possible,” Modi said in a message.

Union Home Minister Amit Shah condoled the death of kids in the fire and said: “The fire accident in Bhandara district hospital, Maharashtra is very unfortunate. I am pained beyond words. My thoughts and condolences are with bereaved families…”

“The unfortunate incident of fire at Bhandara District General Hospital in Maharashtra is extremely tragic. My condolences to the families of the children who lost their lives. I appeal to Maharashtra government to provide every possible assistance to the families of the injured and deceased,” Congress MP Rahul Gandhi said.

Tope also announced that a compensation of Rs 500,000 would be given to the parents of each of the deceased infants while a probe would be conducted and the guilty would be punished severely.

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