10 dead in fire at mall hospital treating COVID-19 patients

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(Eds: recasts fifth para) Mumbai, Mar 26 (PTI) Ten patients died after a fire broke out at a Mumbai mall hospital where coronavirus patients were being treated, a fire brigade official said on Friday.

It is not clear how many of those dead were COVID-19 patients. There was also no word from civic officials on how many of those evacuated from the hospital were being treated for coronavirus.

The fire broke out at the Sunrise Hospital in the Dreams Mall building in Bhandup area shortly after midnight, the official said.

Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray who visited the spot in the afternoon said there was approval for starting a temporary coronavirus treatment facility there.

The hospital has so far confirmed two deaths, adding that both were coronavirus patients who were already dead from the disease when the fire broke out. It said there were no deaths in the fire. The differing versions of the hospital and fire brigade could not be immediately reconciled.

The hospital is situated on the top floor of the four-storeyed mall building and there were 76 patients, most of them being treated for COVID-19, when the fire broke out, another official said.

The blaze comes amid an upsurge in coronavirus cases in Mumbai. On Thursday, the city logged 5,504 new infections, the highest daily count since the pandemic began.

The cause of the 'level four' fire (serious emergency call in fire brigade parlance) has not been ascertained yet, the BMC control room sources said.

Twenty fire engines, 15 water tankers and ambulances were rushed to the spot. Fire fighting operation is underway, the official said.

Many patients were evacuated by the fire brigade and shifted to another hospital, the official said, adding fire personnel are checking if any patient is still stuck there.

Mumbai Mayor Kishori Pednekar who visited the site expressed surprise that a hospital was operating inside the mall.

'I have seen a hospital at a mall for the first time,' the mayor said, adding action will be taken if irregularities were found in allowing the facility to operate there.

The hospital in a statement said, 'There was a fire on the first floor of Dreams Mall, Bhandup and the smoke reached up to the Sunrise Hospital located on the top floor. When fire alarms beeped, all patients were safely evacuated to the fire refuge area as the smoke was reaching the hospital.' A civic official said the BMC had issued notice to the mall last year for allegedly flouting fire safety norms.

Former NCP MP Sanjay Patil said he had written to the BMC commissioner last year drawing the civic body's attention to the alleged flouting of fire safety norms there.

'Pained by the loss of lives due to a fire at a hospital in Mumbai. I pray that the injured recover soon,' Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted.

'Pained by the loss of lives in a fire incident at a COVID care hospital in Mumbai, Maharashtra. My condolences to the bereaved families & prayers for the speedy recovery of the injured,' Vice President Venkaiah Naidu tweeted. PTI ZA ND VT VT VT