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.