Scores killed in Indian hospital fire

More than 60 people were killed when a fire engulfed a hospital on Friday in the eastern Indian city of Kolkata, with many victims believed to be patients who died of smoke inhalation.

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, who visited the site, told reporters that 41 bodies had been moved to a makeshift morgue in an adjacent hospital.

“Another 20 bodies have been recovered at the site and are being shifted across,” she said.

Most of the victims appeared to be patients, trapped by the smoke and flames that spread rapidly through the private AMRI hospital during the night.

Banerjee promised a full investigation and said action would be taken if fire prevention standards were found to have been below standard.

The fire broke out around 3am (9.30pm GMT on Thursday) and initial investigations suggested that it started in the basement of the AMRI hospital.

By 9am, the blaze had largely been brought under control, but smoke continued to billow from shattered windows, as firemen struggled to reach patients and hospital staff still trapped inside.

‘Several bodies’
Hospital staff said a total of 160 patients were in the building at the time.

Distraught relatives gathered outside to follow the rescue operation.

“My mother is in the intensive care unit. She’s 70 years old. I don’t know if she is alive or not,” Khokon Chakravathi said.

Badal Sikari, a local resident who had helped the first emergency teams to arrive at the scene, said he had seen “several bodies” of people who appeared to have suffocated.

Fire engines had trouble reaching the hospital, which is surrounded by a network of narrow, winding roads.

Rescued patients and those who managed to escape said they woke up to find their wards full of acrid smoke.

“I was terrified, I kept shouting for help,” said Jyoti Chaudhary who was admitted to the hospital a week before.

“Finally, a nurse dragged me out of the ward and got me down to the ground floor,” said Chaudhary, who then taken to the adjacent hospital wing.

Ananya Das (34), bearing stitches on her stomach from a minor surgery carried out the day before, said she was in post-operative recovery when the fire broke out.

“I managed to walk towards and exit and then climb out of a window.
I saw a lot of bodies,” she said.—AFP

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