Fire at Iraqi hospital treating COVID-19 patients kills at least 82

Hospital fire in Iraq.
(Image credit: AP Photo)

At least 82 people were killed and 110 injured after a fire broke out Sunday in the intensive care unit of the Ibn al-Katib Hospital in Baghdad, Iraq. The ICU was reserved to treat patients suffering from the most severe cases of COVID-19. The fire, which is now under control, reportedly spread quickly beyond the ICU because the "hospital had no fire protection and false ceilings allowed the flames to spread to highly flammable products."

There's no official word on what sparked the fire, but Al Jazeera cites doctors at the scene who believe the source was an accident that caused an oxygen tank to explode. Most Iraqi hospitals do not have a central supply of supplemental oxygen, Al Jazeera notes, which means patients who need it (which would be common among people with severe COVID-19 infections) are given a cylinder placed by their bed. Because of staff shortages, relatives visiting patients are sometimes tasked with changing the cylinders, a doctor told Al Jazeera.

Iraq's Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi has called for an immediate investigation into the fire and quickly dismissed the director-general of the Baghdad Health Department in the al-Rusafa area, where the hospital is located, as well as the director of the hospital and its director of engineering and maintenance. Meanwhile, the government's human rights commission said the incident was "a crime against patients exhausted by COVID-19" and urged al-Kadhimi to also fire Hassan al-Tamini, the country's health minister. Read more at Al Jazeera and BBC.

Subscribe to The Week

Escape your echo chamber. Get the facts behind the news, plus analysis from multiple perspectives.


Sign up for The Week's Free Newsletters

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

Sign up

Continue reading for free

We hope you're enjoying The Week's refreshingly open-minded journalism.

Subscribed to The Week? Register your account with the same email as your subscription.

Tim O'Donnell

Tim is a staff writer at The Week and has contributed to Bedford and Bowery and The New York Transatlantic. He is a graduate of Occidental College and NYU's journalism school. Tim enjoys writing about baseball, Europe, and extinct megafauna. He lives in New York City.