Five COVID-19 patients killed in Indian hospital fire

AHMEDABAD, India (Reuters) - Five patients were killed in India on Friday in a fire that broke out in a COVID-19 ward, the fourth blaze in a novel coronavirus hospital since the outbreak began, which drew angry questions from the Supreme Court.

The early morning blaze in Rajkot city in the western state of Gujrat gutted the intensive care unit (ICU) of the private hospital, television footage showed. The most likely cause was an electrical short circuit, said government official Udit Agarwal.

“Three of the patients in the ICU died on the spot, and two others succumbed on way to hospital. The two other patients in the ICU were unhurt,” Agarwal told Reuters.

India has recorded 9.3 million infections, the second-highest in the world after the United States, and more 135,00 deaths. On Friday, the health ministry said it reported 43,082 new cases and 492 deaths in the past 24 hours.

The latest fire angered India’s top court, which asked both the federal and state governments to submit a detailed reply on recurring fires in COVID-19 hospitals.

In August, eight COVID-19 patients were killed in a fire in the ICU ward of a hospital in Ahmedabad, the largest city of Gujarat.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who hails from the state, said on Twitter that he was pained by the loss of lives on Friday.

Modi will visit three companies working on coronavirus vaccines, including one in Gujarat, on Saturday, his office said in a post on Twitter.

Reporting by Sumit Khanna in Ahmedabad and Suchitra Mohanty in New Delhi; Writing by Shilpa Jamkhandikar; Editing by Robert Birsel