10/18/2016, 15.47
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Mgr Barwa’s deep sorrow over 20 people who died in Bhubaneshwar hospital

by Nirmala Carvalho

A fire broke out due to a short-circuit. Carbon monoxide spread to dialysis and intensive care units, killing hapless patients. The ventilation system helped the poisonous gas spread. The archbishop of Cuttack-Bhubaneshwar prays for the families of the victims.

Bhubaneshwar (AsiaNews) – A major fire broke out last night at the SUM Hospital in Bhubaneshwar, capital of the Indian state of Odisha (Orissa), with smoke and toxic gases spreading through the intensive care and dialysis units.

About 14 patients died right away from smoke inhalation. Another 105 patients (in the 1000-bed hospital) were affected and taken to nine other hospitals, in Bhubaneshwar and the neighbouring city of Cuttack. According to the latest information, six more patients died from the smoke and other injuries.

"The Church of Cuttack-Bhubaneshwar is deeply saddened by the loss of human lives,” Mgr John Barwa, archbishop of Cuttack-Bhubaneshwar, told AsiaNews. “This event has caused untold suffering. Our thoughts, prayers and deepest sympathy go to the families, relatives and friends of the deceased."

According to the archbishop, the hospital tragedy "is the worst thing that one can ever imagine for those who are already pained by their loved ones’ illness. We are shocked by this disaster. This is a very sad time for Bhubaneshwar."

According to the investigation, the fire was caused by a short-circuit. The SUM Hospital is a private institution and its administration is now under subject to an inquiry for possible negligence.

According to the National Building Code 2005, hospitals are classified as institutional buildings and therefore require fire-fighting equipment.

“It must have taken enough time for the fire to spread in such a manner,” said Lok Sabha Member Tathagata Satpathy. This is a sign of the “lack of fire-fighting system and poor infrastructure in the hospital.”

Firefighters and police officers who rushed to the scene said that the fire was first spotted in the dialysis unit on the first floor of the hospital. Hospital staff tried to douse it with two fire extinguishers but eventually gave up.

As the fire spread to other units, the smoke entered the air conditioning ducts and false ceiling. The carbon monoxide gas generated by the flames travelled to the Intensive Care Unit, quickly asphyxiating hapless patients.

“The air-conditioner ducts turned the hospital into death zone as they helped travel the poisonous gas,” said a hospital staff.

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