Iraq Hospital Blaze: Another Preventable Tragedy

People gather near a firefighting truck as a massive fire engulfs the coronavirus isolation ward of Al-Hussein hospital in the southern Iraqi city of Nasiriyah, July 12, 2021. Image: Asaad Niazi/AFP/Getty
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People gather near a firefighting truck as a massive fire engulfs the coronavirus isolation ward of Al-Hussein hospital in the southern Iraqi city of Nasiriyah, July 12, 2021. Image: Asaad Niazi/AFP/Getty

While grieving family members combed through charred blankets and belongings looking for signs of their loved ones, the death toll climbed to 92 in a fire that blazed through a COVID-19 hospital ward in Nasiriya, Iraq Monday night, Al Jazeera reports.

  • Investigators blamed sparks from faulty wiring that led an oxygen tank to explode, setting off the fire that also injured 100+.

  • President Barham Salih blamed the disaster on “persistent corruption and mismanagement,” setting off a round of firings of local officials including the province’s health director.

It was the second such fire in 3 months. A similar explosion at a Baghdad hospital in April killed at least 82 and injured 110.

  • The Baghdad fire spurred the suspension and eventual resignation of then-health minister Hassan al-Tamimi—but safety improvements did not follow, according to Middle East Eye

  • Nasiriya’s hospital lacked a fire sprinkler or even a simple fire alarm, one medic told Reuters.

 
The latest disaster is sure to deepen fear and mistrust of the health system that has kept many Iraqis from seeking care—at a time that COVID-19 cases are surging, reaching a peak last week of 9,000 cases per day, the AP reports.

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