DHAKA, Bangladesh (AFP) — Five people were killed in a top Bangladesh hospital on Thursday after a fire swept through a makeshift coronavirus isolation unit, officials said.
The blaze occurred in Dhaka’s posh Gulshan neighborhood and comes as the country faces a rising number of coronavirus cases.
Fire service official Kamrul Hasan told AFP the fire began when an air conditioner exploded in a shed belonging to United Hospital.
“Fire service teams have controlled the fire in around an hour. Five people have died of suffocation due to the fire,” Hasan said.
The blaze quickly raced through the unit due to the presence of flammable items such as sanitizer, Dhaka police deputy commissioner Sudip Kumar Chakraborty told AFP.
“Three of those who have died are COVID-19 patients and the rest two were COVID-19 negatives,” he said.
Police said the fire originated at 9:48 pm Bangladesh time (1548 GMT) and soon engulfed the isolation unit, which was built adjacent to the hospital in recent weeks to treat suspected coronavirus patients.
A doctor at the hospital told AFP panic gripped patients as the fire spread.
“We are already very stressed out at work and the fire only added to our headache,” he said, speaking on the condition of anonymity.
“Thank God they controlled the fire before it reached the main hospital. Otherwise, it would have been a catastrophe,” he added.
The COVID-19 pandemic has worsened in Bangladesh in recent weeks, with the death toll hitting 544 and nearly 40,000 people infected.
The government this week ordered most of its state-run hospitals to treat COVID-19 patients.
Previously only a handful of public and private hospitals were treating the virus.
Health experts say the number of actual cases and fatalities in Bangladesh is likely much higher, and that the government figures are limited due to low testing levels.
© Agence France-Presse