A fire that took hold of the maternity ward of a Baghdad hospital late on Tuesday night killed 13 newborns and left at least 25 people injured, according to local health officials. More than 25 babies and women were burned or suffered smoke inhalation, and were evacuated to other hospitals. Several of those women were awaiting caesarean sections.
Although the fire broke out just before midnight, firefighters did not arrive at Yarmouk hospital for an hour-and-a-half. The incident is currently under investigation, The New York Times reported. While some officials said the fire began after an oxygen bottle exploded in a corridor, some of the victims’ relatives suspected arson, noting a dispute between former and current directors of the facility — although they admitted they had no evidence to suggest the fire was intentionally set.
A mother to one of the newborn victims, Mariam Thijeel, said, “There was screaming. The power was cut off, and then the doors got locked on us, and there was no man in the newborn section, and we could not save any babies.”
She recounted a harrowing tale of trying to find someone with keys to the locked wing that was on fire.
Zainab Ali, whose baby son Jafar Kahtan Saddam had been in the hospital for breathing difficulties, came to visit him and was told he had died. She said she had heard reports the fire extinguishers didn’t work.
Hospital funding in Iraq has been cutback in the wake of the government’s war against ISIS and the drop in the price of oil, with some institutions reduced to sterilizing needles and other equipment intended for one-time use.
Read the full story at The New York Times.