Fire in Costa Rican hospital kills at least 15

A fire consumed several floors of a busy Costa Rican hospital before dawn on Tuesday, killing at least 15 patients, Costa Rican officials said. Nurses broke out windows trying to escape, and many patients fled the hospital on their own.

The fire broke out on the fourth or fifth floor of the Calderon Guardia hospital in the Costa Rican capital of San Jose at 2.23am local time, fire chief Hector Chavez told Channel 7 television news. It was brought under control three hours later.

At least 15 people were killed, and the death toll could rise, Alexander Poras, an official with the Costa Rican Red Cross, told the station.
Surviving patients were being evacuated to other hospitals.

The fire broke out on the fourth or fifth floor, the oldest part of the building and where the archives and out-care patient services are located. It quickly spread to neurology and other sections where patients were being treated.

Fire fighters used ladders to evacuate people.

“I was with my mother on the fifth floor ... it was terrible,” Luz Marina Chinchilla said between sobs. “A nurse shouted and set off the alarm.”

Dr Eduardo Saenz, who was on call at the time of the fire, said he was attending to a patient when he smelled smoke. He carried the patient out in his arms.

Many family members, seeing the news on television or receiving cellphone calls from patients being evacuated, rushed to the hospital to check on loved ones.

“I came to get my wife,” Luis Prado said. “I went up to the second floor, but they wouldn’t let me beyond that ... But I found my wife and helped her and brought her to an ambulance.”

Calderon Guardia is one of Costa Rica’s main hospitals, receiving patients from all over the country. Months ago, there was a small fire in the same hospital and firefighters had been carrying out drills ever since.—Sapa-AP

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