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West Bengal: Fire in Murshidabad hospital, 2 killed

Several people were injured in stampede; CM Mamata Bannerjee sets up high-level inquiry panel

By: Express News Service | Kolkata |
August 28, 2016 12:43:20 am
Parents and hospital staff attend to newborns after they were evacuated, in Murshidabad on Saturday. They were relocated to the Mother Child Hub.  Express Photo Parents and hospital staff attend to newborns after they were evacuated, in Murshidabad on Saturday. They were relocated to the Mother Child Hub. Express Photo

At least two persons were killed and more than 20 injured in a stampede after a fire broke out in Murshidabad Medical College on Saturday, triggering panic among patients and their relatives.

“Fire broke out at around 11.50 am in an air-conditioner installed at the second floor of a vacant VIP cabin in the main medical ward,” Director of Health and Services Biswaranjan Satpathy told The Sunday Express.

Two female staff from the nursing department, identified as Purnima Das and Mamoni Das, were killed in the stampede that ensued after everyone tried to escape the fire, said officials from the health department.

According to sources, there were more than 5,000 people on the hospital premises when the incident occurred. The emergency gate of the hospital was reportedly closed, so patients and hospital staff could use only one staircase while trying to escape from the fire, triggering a panic. It is alleged that the fire alarm at the hospital was also not functional.

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Newborns in the Sick Newborn Care Unit (SNCU) were brought out of the hospital premises and kept on the lawns as their parents and hospital staff attended to them.

“Patients in the adjacent wards were immediately taken out, including those from the pediatric ward, and all of them were relocated to the newly built Mother Child Hub,” Satpathy said.

The hospital’s Chief Medical Officer of Health (CMOH) Subhasis Saha was immediately asked by the state government to monitor the situation. Another special medical team from Malda was rushed to the spot in order to treat the injured victims.

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“There is no panic right now and the situation is under control,” Satpathy said. State Fire Minister Sovan Chatterjee also said that the blaze was “well under control”.
Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee is learnt to be monitoring the situation from Kolkata, and has asked police, fire and health departments to submit detailed reports about the incident.

R S Shukla, Principal Secretary, Health, said, “A team from the health department had been sent to the hospital and soon a report will be submitted to know the exact cause of fire.”

The CM has also ordered the formation of a high-level inquiry committee to probe the fire tragedy.

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According to sources, the state government has declared compensation of Rs 2 lakh to the next of kin of both victims, and free treatment for those injured. Those who received minor injuries were released immediately after preliminary treatment, Satpathy said.

Another four-member high power team from Kolkata led by chairman of Multi-Disciplinary Expert Group, Chandrima Bhattacharya has been asked to rush to the spot to assess the situation, sources said. Bhattacharya, who is also managing director of West Bengal Medical Services Corporation, said she would submit a report to the chief minister after reviewing the situation and making a detailed assessment.

“We started off for Murshidabad the moment we got to know about the incident. We will visit the hospital to monitor the current situation and ensure there are proper arrangements of treatment for those who are injured,” Bhattarcharya told The Sunday Express.

According to local sources, many of the injured were the relatives of patients , who rushed to the hospital when they learnt about the incident. More than 10 persons have sustained fractures, sources added.

Meanwhile, family members of the patients alleged that the hospital lacked basic fire fighting infrastructure, and that a tragedy was waiting to happen. Eyewitnesses said there were no fire extinguishers inside the ward and the elevator too was not working. Later, loudspeakers were used by the management to control the situation and make announcements for everyone at the spot.

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A hospital staff member said it was not surprising that there was a short circuit in the AC. “I have rarely seen any AC machines being serviced in the past few years,” he said.

There was confusion about the death of another newborn girl child due to the fire, purportedly shown in different TV news channels.

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While the child’s parents alleged that her death was caused by the fire, officials from the state health department said ascertaining the cause of her death is subject to probe. “The newborn baby was admitted in SNCU. Whether she was killed out of suffocation or due to a prolonged illness is a matter of probe,” said a senior officer from health department.

State govt orders CID probe
The West Bengal government ordered a CID inquiry into the fire in Murshidabad Medical College Hospital which claimed two lives on Saturday.

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“CID has already taken the case. A team of senior officials of CID has left for Murshidabad,” DIG (CID) Dilip Adak told The Sunday Express.

Sources at the probe agency revealed that an enquiry will be done to find out what was the exact cause of incident.

The committee will comprise secretaries of other relevant departments and will look into the cause of the incident. It will suggest remedial measure so that such incidents do not recur and look into other incidental issues, the release added.

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First published on: 28-08-2016 at 12:43:20 am
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