For the second time in 48 hours, Maharashtra was shocked when at least 15 Covid-19 patients including five women, perished in a major fire that broke out in a private hospital in Virar town of Palghar district of Maharashtra, around 80 km north of Mumbai, early on Friday, officials said.
President R. N. Kovind, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari, Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, Union Home Minister Amit Shah, Leader of Opposition (Assembly) Devendra Fadnavis and other leaders have expressed grief over the tragedy.
The conflagration was noticed around 3.15 a.m. in the ICU ward located on the second floor of the 4-storeyed Vijay Vallabh hospital at Tirupati Nagar in Virar.
The Vasai-Virar Municipal Corporation (VVMC) immediately rushed 10 fire-fighting teams and other rescue agencies to the spot to battle the blaze, even as horrified and grieving relatives made a beeline for the hospital.
The fire-caused by a suspected short-circuit in the hospital air-conditioning plant was brought under control and extinguished after two hours, around 5.50 a.m., said VVMC Chief Fire Officer Dilip Palav.
While 13 perishing in the flames that engulfed the ICU, two seriously injured victims succumbed later and around three others taking treatment in the ill-fated ICU were shifted and rushed to safety before the blaze spread further.
Taking serious note, Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray ordered a probe into the tragedy and announced a compensation of Rs 5 lakh to the kin of all decreased, besides Rs 100,000 to all the seriously injured.
Besides, the PM announced a compensation of Rs 2-Lakh to the kin of each deceased and Rs 50,000 to those seriously injured in the incident while VVMC will also give Rs 5-Lakh to the relatives of the dead, said Health Minister Rajesh Tope.
Late this evening the Arnala Police Station registered cases against the hospital management staff amd a medico under various charges, said Deputy Commissioner of Police Sanjay Patil.
Maharashtra Congress President Nana Patole, Ministers Dada D. Bhuse, Balasaheb Thorat, Eknath Shinde, local legislators of Bahujan Vikas Aghadi (BVA) Hitendra Thakur and his son Kshitij Thakur, besides Leader of Opposition (Council) Pravin Darekar, top police and civic officials rushed to the site to review the rescue operations.
Some patients took a discharge from the hospital, while angry relatives of the deceased gheraoed the CEO Dilip Shah and held him responsible for the massive tragedy.
They also demanded to know why he did heed patients' complaints about the malfunctioning of the A/C plant and other issues that were also highlighted by the local unit of Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS).
This is the second major Covid pandemic tragedy in the past 48 hours after an oxygen gas leak in a Nashik Municipal Corporation hospital on April 21 claimed 29 lives so far.