India: Fire in COVID ward kills 18 as country grapples with outbreak

The Welfare Hospital after a deadly fire in Bharuch, western India
The Welfare Hospital after a deadly fire in Bharuch, western India Copyright AP/KK PRODUCTIONS
By Euronews with AP
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A fire in a COVID-19 hospital ward in western India killed 18 patients early on Saturday.


A fire in a COVID-19 hospital ward in western India killed 18 patients early on Saturday.

Thirty-one other patients at the Welfare Hospital in Bharuch, a town in Gujarat state, were rescued by hospital workers and firefighters and their condition was stable, said police officer B.M Parmar.

The cause of the fire is being investigated, officials said.

The tragedy comes as India grapples with global records for new coronavirus cases.

With a tally of more than 19.1 million confirmed cases, India is behind only the US in total number of cases.

On Saturday it set yet another daily global record with 401,993 new cases, and another 3,523 deaths in the past 24 hours.

The overall death toll from COVID-19 is now 211,853, according to the Health Ministry, although many experts believe the true figure to be higher.

Faced with an unprecedented surge in cases that has filled hospitals and crematoriums, Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government described the pandemic as a "once-in-a-century crisis.”

Modi held a Cabinet meeting Friday that discussed steps to save the country’s crumbling health system by adding hospital beds, resolving issues in production, storage and transport of oxygen and tackling the shortage of essential medicines.

Television images showed a woman gasping for breath in her car while her family looked for a hospital bed on the outskirts of New Delhi.

The 33-year-old woman couldn’t find room at three hospitals and died in the car on Friday, The Times of India newspaper reported.

The government on Saturday shifted its faltering vaccination campaign into high gear by saying all adults 18 and over were getting their shots.

Since January, nearly 10% of Indians have received one dose, but only around 1.5% have received both, though India is one of the world’s biggest producers of vaccines.

Some states already said they do not have enough doses for everyone. Even the ongoing effort to inoculate people above 45 is stuttering.

The state of Maharashtra has said it won’t be able to start on Saturday. Satyender Jain, the health minister in the capital, New Delhi, said earlier this week that the city doesn’t have enough doses to vaccinate people between 18 and 44.

The US meanwhile joined a growing list of countries restricting travel from India, the White House said, citing a devastating rise in COVID-19 cases and the emergence of potentially dangerous variants of the coronavirus.

On April 23, a fire in an intensive care unit killed 13 COVID-19 patients in the Virar area on the outskirts of Mumbai.

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