On Tuesday, July 13, al-Hussein Teaching Hospital’s COVID-19 ward in Nasiriya, Iraq went ablaze, effectively killing over 90 individuals and injuring more than 100 others. According to hospital staff, the teaching hospital lacked even the most basic of fire alarms.
Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi called for an emergency meeting and ordered the suspension and arrest of Dhi Qar province’s health director, the hospital’s director, and the city’s civil defense chief. In a statement from his office, PM al-Kadhimi also called for national mourning. (Read: WATCH: Pope Francis Leaves Uplifting Message to Catholics in Iraq)
Pope Francis offers prayers
And apart from Iraqis, especially those who lost relatives and friends in the fire, Pope Francis also expressed his sadness over the incident.
In a telegram sent by the Secretary of State to Archbishop Mitja Leskovar, Apostolic Nuncio in Iraq, he said that Pope Francis “sends the assurance of his spiritual closeness to all affected by the tragic fire at the Covid isolation ward of the al-Hussein hospital in Nasiriya.” He added that the Holy Father is praying for those who died, and their families who are currently grieving.
“Upon the patients, staff and caregivers he invokes God’s blessings of consolation, strength and peace,” the statement says.
Second fire in three months
This is the second time in three months that an Iraqi hospital had been in a fire incident–the first one being the Ibn al-Khatib Hospital’s COVID-19 ICU in Baghdad. The April fire cost the lives of 82 individuals and wounded over a hundred more. Iraq’s health minister was suspended because of the fire, and he eventually resigned.
Both fires are attributed to the explosion of oxygen tanks, according to investigators.