Four premature babies killed in Iraq hospital fire

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Four children were killed in a fire Monday in a maternity ward in southern Iraq, the Iraqi health ministry and Red Cross announced.

The Iraqi Red Cross said in a communique that 150 children and 190 adults were evacuated from the fire in the town of Diwaniyah, about 175 kilometres south of Baghdad.

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The fire was caused by an electrical short-circuit that lit wastepaper and materials belonging to a company renovating the hospital, health minister Saleh al-Hasnawi said during a press conference on the site shortly after firemen had extinguished the flames.

“The smoke entered the establishment, but not the fire itself,” he said. Four prematurely born babies in the neo-natal intensive care unit died of respiratory complications, he said.

Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani ordered the firing of those “responsible for negligence.”

Safety norms are rarely respected in the construction and transport sectors in Iraq.

In late September 2023, about a hundred people died in fire caused by fireworks in a crowded marriage hall in the north of the country.

In July 2021, a fire in the Covid ward of a hospital in the south killed 60 people. And a few months earlier, exploding oxygen bottles set off a fire in a Baghdad hospital that killed more than 80 people.

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