Anger mounts over Iraq’s deadly COVID hospital fire

In the southern Iraqi city of Nassiriya, people pick through the rubble of a burned out coronavirus hospital.

Initial investigations indicate that a fire engulfed the building, after sparks from faulty wiring spread to an oxygen tank which exploded.

Dozens of people died here on Monday (July 12) night, and over a hundred more were injured.

Khazaal Ghaleem witnessed the blaze.

"The front door was burning and the back door was closed so people couldn't get out. But before the fire broke out, some of them managed to get out and afterwards people were stuck inside and the ceiling fell on them. We managed to take out some people but they were suffering and the rest of them burnt and died. There are families who are still searching for their relatives."

The following distressing images filmed by Reuters show rows of bodies retrieved from the fire.

On Tuesday (July 13), funerals were held in Najaf, around 150 miles northwest of Nassiriya, to remember those lost.

Three of Emad Hashim's family members died.

"It killed the patients and those accompanying them. There are no nearby fire extinguishers, no nearby ambulances, no water to put out fire. People ran to get the corpses out. The people hardly found the corpses, they were completely charred. The last thing I remember was walking around the corpses, there was nothing."

Anger spread among Iraqis gathered at Nassiriya's morgue as they waited to receive relatives' bodies.

They blame local authorities for negligence.

A medic whose shift at the hospital ended a few hours before the fire broke out said the absence of basic safety measures like a fire sprinkler system or simple fire alarm meant it was an accident in the making.

Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi ordered the suspension and arrest of health and civil defense managers in Nassiriya on Monday, as well as the al-Hussain hospital's manager.

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