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Kolkata hospital turns death trap, 81 killed in fire

Friday December 09, 2011 06:46:04 PM, Anurag Dey and Pradipta Tapadar, IANS

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Kolkata Hospital Fire: Death toll shoots up to 73

At least 73 people, most of them patients, died in a fire that broke out in the basement of the AMRI hospital here, hospital officials said Friday. Hospital authorities said 70 patients and three staffers had been killed.

Dead or alive? Caught in chaos at Kolkata hospital

Massive fire in Kolkata hospital, patients feared trapped

Kolkata: In the worst fire tragedy in any hospital in India, 78 patients and three staffers were killed in Kolkata's well-known AMRI hospital when a blaze started in the basement of the annexe building early Friday and quickly spread, trapping hundreds of people.

The pre-dawn blaze broke out at 3.30 a.m., catching many in their sleep. While most nurses, doctors and other staffers were able to get away, many critically ill patients died in their hospital beds.

The tragedy unfolded over many hours as patients were suffocated to death, some too infirm to escape the toxic fumes. The lucky few were brought down the side of the four-storey glass facade building, only six years old, using ropes and ladders as thousands looked on in horror.

Till late in the evening, rescuers were trying to drill holes in the wall and smash the glass-panes in a last ditch effort to look for survivors and bodies, and extinguish any fires still flickering.

The task of counting the bodies continued, with West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee announcing in the evening that the toll had mounted to 81.

Co-founded by the Emami & Shrachi Groups along with the West Bengal government in 1996, the hospital that was once rated as amongst India's best is located in the fairly upscale Dhakuria neighbourhood.

High profile industrialists -- Emami Group Chairman R.S. Goenka and Shrachi Group's R.S. Todi -- and four other directors of the hospital were arrested, Banerjee announced. The hospital's license was cancelled.

It was a sorry saga of bureaucratic and government inefficiency, leading to the second major fire in Kolkata in 20 months -- after the March 23, 2010 blaze at the British-era Stephen Court in the heart of the bustling Park Street claimed 43 lives.

The fire brigade allegedly reached the hospital two hours late and was initially ill-equipped - coming without masks and with only rickety manual lifts - to deal with the horrific disaster.

Besides, complained anguished relatives and rescuers, the fire broke out in the basement packed with combustible material, including oxygen cylinders and chemicals.

No wonder, the hospital, which prides itself on its super specialty facilities and attracts many foreigners, quickly turned into a death trap with the sealed windows and glass.

"The victims mostly got suffocated from the fumes," Municipal Affairs Minister Firhad Hakim said.

"The father of one of my friends was admitted in one of the upper floors. When he heard I am at the spot he called up his son and told him to ask me to rescue him. I could not do anything. I saw his burnt body."

Said a hospital official: "At the time of the fire, there were 160 patients, including around 40-50 in the ICU."

The hospital has two other blocks in the complex.

Through the morning, patients blackened by soot, some dead and others barely alive, were brought out while relatives and locals vented their ire at the state and hospital administration.

"The administration is hopeless, useless," shouted Pradeep Sarkar. His father-in-law had been admitted there Thursday night with a heart ailment.

He said the sky lift came only around 7 a.m.

"They (firemen) came with manual ladders. Had the sky lift come earlier, many people could have been saved," said Sarkar.

Banerjee rushed to the spot, but only stoked the rage of the people.

"Because Mamata is here, the ambulances cannot go towards the annex building. Please ask her to shift to another road," shouted a distraught relative.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh expressed grief and announced compensation of Rs.200,000 each to the families of those killed.

Senior hospital officials, who patients alleged came several hours after the fire broke out, said they had all fire-fighting equipment in place and did not know what had gone wrong.
 

 

 

 

 

 

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Kolkata Hospital Fire: Death toll shoots up to 73

At least 73 people, most of them patients, died in a fire that broke out in the basement of the AMRI hospital here, hospital officials said Friday. Hospital authorities said 70 patients and three staffers had been killed.

Dead or alive? Caught in chaos at Kolkata hospital

Massive fire in Kolkata hospital, patients feared trapped

 

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