CAIRO (AP) — An intensive care unit at an Egyptian hospital caught fire on Monday, killing seven COVID-19 patients, according to the country’s public prosecutor.
The blaze erupted in the coronavirus ward of a private hospital in Alexandria, along Egypt’s north coast. Six men and one woman were killed, said Governor Mohamed el-Sharif.
The Department of Civil Protection blamed an electric short-circuit for the fire. Police are still investigating but preliminary reports indicate the fire started in the room’s air-conditioner, according to a statement from public prosecutors. After hearing the air-conditioner unit explode, nurses scrambled to stem the flames, but the victims were already overcome by the thick, billowing smoke.
“In just seconds, there was a massive fire and none of the workers were able to control the situation because of the rapid spread,” Badrawy Hospital said in a statement. Safety standards and fire regulations are poorly enforced in Egypt and have been linked to many deaths.
One patient was injured in the blaze and the rest were evacuated, the prosecutors added. Firefighters doused the blackened remains of ventilators, beds and other medical supplies in the coronavirus ward.