By Sumit Khanna
AHMEDABAD, India (Reuters) - Eight COVID-19 patients died in a fire that broke out in the intensive care ward of a private hospital in Ahmedabad early on Thursday, officials said as they launched a probe into the incident.
Police stopped angry relatives from entering the Shrey Hospital in Gujarat state's largest city after the tragedy which, according to emergency services, was caused by a medical staff member's personal protective equipment (PPE) catching alight.
"A staffer whose PPE caught fire ran out of the ward to douse it but the fire spread rapidly to the whole ward," said Rajesh Bhatt, additional chief fire officer of the Ahmedabad Fire and Emergency Services.
"Five men and three women, who were undergoing treatment for the novel coronavirus were not in a position to escape... they died due to smoke and heat caused by the fire," he said.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi in a tweet said "he was saddened by the tragic hospital fire" in his home state.
In Mumbai, India's financial capital, hospital staff waded through corridors flooded with rain water to enter wards following torrential monsoon season downpours.
India's coronavirus cases rose by 56,282 on Thursday, taking the total to 1.96 million including 40,699 deaths.
(This story corrects to largest city not state capital in second paragraph)
(Writing by Rupam Jain, Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)