The children who died were aged between a few days and three months. The fire occured because of a short circuit in the neonatal unit.
As a parent, it's hard to imagine losing one's child. We hope that we live to see them grow and someday, they would be the ones having to say goodbye to us. However, accidents and tragedies happen, and we may not have any control over them. Recently, the parents of 10 babies in the Indian state of Maharashtra had to reckon with the loss of their newborns when a fire tore through a hospital's neonatal unit.
"The fire broke out at 2 am (2030 GMT) today," said Pramod Khandate, a civil surgeon at Bhandara District General Hospital in the western state on January 9, 2021, according to Reuters. There were 17 babies in the Sick Newborn Care Unit (SNCU) and only seven were rescued, Khandate said. Before the staff could get to the rest of the 10 babies they were forced back due to the fire.
Ten newborn babies, aged between one and three months, died after a fire broke out in the special newborn care unit of the Bhandara district hospital at around 1.30 am on Saturday, January 9.https://t.co/pwyaxiRaxR— The Wire (@thewire_in) January 9, 2021
The infants were aged from barely a few days old to three months in some cases, according to Al Jazeera. "The cause of the fire is not known yet but our staff extinguished the fire as soon as they could. The smoke led to the babies suffocating," Khandate said.
One of the children who died in the fire was a baby boy abandoned at birth. He was found in the remote village of Kesalwada in Lakhanitehsil a week before the fire took place. Since the child had been critical, he had been moved to the Bhandara district hospital, as per local news outlet NDTV.
Later, Maharashtra Health Minister Rajesh Tope said that while investigations are "going on", the fire was caused by a short circuit in the SNCU unit. He added that that the state would pay $6,813 (5 lakh Indian rupees) in compensation to each of the affected families, as per CNN. Maharashtra, the richest state of the country, will also bear the cost of the funerals and counseling.
A heart wrenching tragedy in Bhandara in Maharashtra.. thoughts and prayers tonight with the grieving families. 🙏https://t.co/gpvRCn1OlK— Rajdeep Sardesai (@sardesairajdeep) January 9, 2021
"Whosoever is guilty in this will not be spared at all," Tope said. "It should be ensured that such type of incidences do not occur henceforth."
The nurses who were on duty noticed the fire coming from the Bhandara district hospital's neonatal unit and raised the alarm. Before more damage could be done, firefighters stopped the fire from spreading to the rest of the hospital. Other patients were evacuated safely, and a probe has been ordered by Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thakre.
"Heart-wrenching tragedy in Bhandara, Maharashtra, where we have lost precious young lives," Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Twitter. "My thoughts are with all the bereaved families. I hope the injured recover as early as possible," he added, as per The Guardian.
The latest disaster casts doubt on safety in Indian hospitals as this is not the first such incident to be reported. In 2011, a fire in a Kolkata hospital killed more than 90 people. More recently, in Gujarat's Ahmedabad, a fire killed eight coronavirus patients in August 2020. In Rajkot, five Covid-19 patients died in a fire in a clinic in November 2020, reported The Guardian.