Seven newborns die at Delhi children's hospital fire - GulfToday

Seven newborns die at Delhi children's hospital fire


People stand in front of a baby care hospital where several newborns died in a fire in New Delhi on Sunday. AFP

Seven newborns were killed when a fire tore through a children's hospital in eastern Delhi late on Saturday night.

The fire broke out in the New Born Baby Care hospital in Delhi's Vivek Vihar area.The owner of the hospital is currently on the run and is believed to have fled to Jaipur, according to sources within the Delhi police.

The blaze in the hospital broke out hours after a separate fire at an amusement park in India's western state of Gujarat left 27 dead, including four children. In that fire — which ripped through a centre with a bowling alley and other games crowded with youngsters — police warned that many of the corpses were so badly burned it was difficult to identify them.

"Twelve newborn babies were rescued from the hospital with the help of other people," Deputy Commissioner of Police (Shahdara) Surendra Choudhary said in a statement, but adding that when they reached medical attention, seven were dead.

The fire, which erupted around 11.32pm, quickly intensified due to the presence of numerous oxygen cylinders that began to explode, spreading the blaze further and causing extensive damage.

"We received the call at 11.32pm and initially dispatched seven fire trucks, followed by an additional fourteen. There were 4-5 explosions that significantly worsened the fire, with oxygen cylinders being hurled as far as 50 metres away.

"The building, which was ground plus three stories high, housed the children on the first floor and a storage area on the second. The fire spread to adjacent floors as well," Atul Garg, Chief Fire Officer told NDTV detailing the harrowing events of the night.

Firefighters battled the inferno for three hours, during which time the challenges of locating and rescuing the infants added to the difficulties.

"We did not know the exact number of children inside," Garg added. "The initial cause of the fire seems to have been an electrical pole igniting, which then set fire to a parked vehicle, eventually causing the oxygen cylinders to catch fire." "The fire spread too fast due to a blast in an oxygen cylinder," he said.

Garg also noted that while the building had reportedly acquired a No Objection Certificate (NOC), the fire department had no records of it.

"We are verifying the NOC. If it's found lacking, we will recommend the building's closure. An investigation is underway to determine if proper firefighting measures were in place, but it's difficult to assess right now as the building is completely gutted."

Realising the gravity of the situation, the owner of the hospital, Naveen Kichi, fled before the police reached his home. Police believe that he may be in Jaipur, and have formed a team to find and arrest him.

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal called the situation "heartbreaking." "We all stand with those who lost their innocent children in this accident," he said on social media. "The causes of the incident are being investigated, and whoever is responsible for this negligence will not be spared."

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi called the fire and deaths "heart-rending" in a post on social media. Modi also offered his condolences to those who lost their babies.

"My thoughts are with the bereaved families in this incredibly difficult time," he wrote on social media. "I pray that those injured recover at the earliest."

The two fires came as northern India was gripped by intense heat, with temperatures in Delhi hitting 46.8˚C on Saturday, according to the India Meteorological Department.

Agence France-Presse

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