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India: At least 23 killed as fire guts hospital ICU ward

Fire breaks out in ICU ward of Institute of Medical Sciences & Sum Hospital, Bhubaneswar

Image Credit: PTI
Rescue work underway at the Institute of Medical Sciences and Sum Hospital in Bhubaneshwar where a fire broke out on Monday night.

Bhubaneswar: At least 23 people were killed after a major fire broke out in the Institute of Medical Sciences and Sum Hospital in Bhubaneswar in eastern India on Monday night.

Several persons were injured. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said in a Tweet that he was deeply anguished by the "mind-numbing" tragedy and directed the federal health minister to facilitate the transfer of those injured to All India Institute of Medical Sciences, a group of government hospitals.

The fire was likely caused by an electrical short circuit at the dialysis unit of the SUM private hospital in Bhubaneswar, the capital of Odisha state, and then subsequently spread to other units, hospital deputy superintendent Basant Kumar Pati said.

Fire tenders were deployed at the hospital while ambulances were moving patients to other hospitals, officials said. Some patients were in critical condition.

Death toll

Officials at various hospitals here said they have received 23 bodies so far, but the death toll could be higher.

"I can't tell the exact death toll at the moment. But some hospitals have received death patients from SUM hospital," said Health Secretary Arti Ahuja.

She said a rescue operation had been launched. "We are presently focusing on patient care and rescue," said Ahuja.

A Gujarati TV station reported the death toll at 23 on Monday night.

"We are trying our best to save lives," said Arti Ahuja, principal secretary of Odisha's health and family welfare department.

She said an inquiry committee has been constituted to probe the fire incident and establish whether the hospital authorities had taken safety measures or not.

An electrical short-circuit is said to have caused the fire in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) of the hospital's dialysis ward, informed sources said.

About seven fire tenders were pressed into service to douse the fire.

Fire Services officer Binay Behera said firefighters have been engaged to control the fire and carry out rescue operation.