Firefighters at the ICU of Civil Hospital in Ahmednagar, Saturday, November 6, 2021. Photo: PTI
- “Fire sprinklers, hydrants were missing,” chief of the Ahmednagar civic fire brigade said.
- Through audits from 2015 to a few months ago, the fire brigade had suggested that the hospital set up a system to combat fires which was unheeded.
- Police have said that some of the victims passed away after asphyxiating.
New Delhi: A day after a major fire at the intensive care unit of a civil hospital in Maharashtra’s Ahmednagar district killed 11 people, reports have revealed that the hospital had allegedly neglected to set up a firefighting system in spite of express suggestions by an audit team of the civic fire brigade a few months ago.
Indian Express has reported that the chief of the Ahmednagar civic fire brigade, Shankar Misal, has put the blame of the fire squarely on the district hospital administration.
Through audits from 2015 to a few months ago, the fire brigade had suggested that the hospital set up a robust firefighting system. However, on the day of the fire, firefighters found that “other than fire extinguishers, there was nothing,” Misal told Express.
“Fire sprinklers, hydrants were missing… the staff had apparently not been trained to handle the fire,” he said, adding that even smoke detectors, which could have alerted staff earlier, were missing.
Misal’s team managed to evacuate 15 people from the ICU. He has told Express that the absence of necessary firefighting measures has meant that his team cannot give a ‘no objection certificate’ to the hospital.
“There were oxygen pipes, electric wires, medical instruments, etc. But, most probably, short circuit seems to be the cause of the fire. Our officials checked the CCTV footage and it was seen that smoke first started billowing through the ceiling. We are conducting a thorough investigation into the incident,” Misal additionally told PTI.
A probe committee headed by Misal will look into what led to the tragedy, the district collector Rajendra Bhosale announced, after Maharashtra chief minister Uddhav Thackeray said an in-depth investigation will be conducted by the district collector.
Maharashtra Energy Minister Nitin Raut has also ordered a detailed inquiry into the fire. “The electricity department’s inspection team had reached the hospital and will conduct a probe,” he said.
“The report will have details like when the fire brigade team came, what was its observation, how many fire staff members were there, what technique was used to douse the fire,” Misal said.
According to officials, the report will also have statements of witnesses and fire officials who visited the spot first after when the fire was reported.
Meanwhile, the Ahmednagar police are also investigating the incident.
“Our parallel investigation is going on in the case. It was a major incident…,” Ahmednagar Superintendent of Police Manoj Patil said.
Police have said that some of the victims passed away after asphyxiating.
“Some patients died of burns, while some died due to the smoke. We are waiting for a detailed postmortem report. Further investigation in the case is on,” Topkhana police station’s assistant police inspector Juber Mujawar said on Sunday.
The blaze erupted around 11 am on Saturday in the ICU ward where 17 COVID-19 patients, many of them senior citizens and some on ventilator or oxygen, were undergoing treatment at the hospital in Ahmednagar, located 120 km from Pune and 253 km from Mumbai.
The ward had been added to the hospital after the pandemic began.
Late Saturday evening, a case was registered against unidentified persons under Indian Penal Code Section 304 (A) (causing death by negligence), Ahmednagar district Superintendent of Police Manoj Patil.
A short circuit was suspected to be the cause of the blaze, though it was yet to be confirmed, chief fire officer of the city civic body Shankar Misal said.
According to the patients’ relatives who normally waited in the corridor outside the ICU, they had been asked to step out as cleaning was going on. Many of them rushed back when they saw thick black smoke billowing from the ward and tried to rescue the patients.
Most of those who died were aged between 65 and 83, according to hospital officials. The government has announced an ex gratia amount of Rs 5 lakh each for the families of those who have died.
In April this year, 15 COVID-19 patients had died in a blaze at the ICU of a private hospital in the state’s Palghar district.
Another fire in March at Dreams Mall in Mumbai’s Bhandup area, which housed a COVID-designated hospital, had claimed the lives of nine such patients.
With PTI inputs