Twelve newborn babies were burnt to death after a fire ripped through a maternity ward at a Baghdad hospital overnight, government officials said on Wednesday.
This is even as 29 women and nine babies were injured when the fire broke out in a corridor of the maternity ward of al-Yarmouk hospital, which lies in central Baghdad.
According to officials, the incident happened shortly after midnight, when an oxygen bottle exploded in a corridor, setting off an electrical fire.
“Civil defence forces managed to extinguish the fire, evacuating the injured to nearby hospitals. Initial findings indicate the incident was caused by an electrical short circuit,” Iraqi Health Ministry spokesman Ahmed al-Rudaini said.
Also speaking on the incident, the head of the hospital, Saad Hatem Ahmed, said that the initial cause of the fire had been faulty electrical wiring.
“Some of the dead babies were preemies but not all of them,” said one of the doctors at the Yarmouk hospital, who spoke on condition of anonymity as he was not authorized to talk to reporters.
Fathers searched for their missing newborns and wives at the scene, as crying relatives claimed some of the babies were still missing and demanded an answer from authorities.
One father, 30-year-old Hussein Omar, a construction worker, said he lost twins in the blaze, a baby boy and a girl born last week.
“I only found charred pieces of flesh,” Omar said, crying. “I want my baby boy and girl back. The government must give them back to me.”
Another woman called Shaima Hassan was left in shock after losing her two-day-old son in the fire. She is 36 and had spent the last year trying to conceive.
“I waited for ages to have this baby and when I finally had him, it took only a second to lose him,” she said, holding a bunch of blackened documents with her hands, covered with burns.
Electrical fires are common in the Iraqi capital and elsewhere across the country because of shoddy maintenance and poor wiring – a lack of fire escapes also contributes to the danger whenever a fire breaks out.