- A fire at hospital in India killed 13 COVID-19 patients early Friday morning, per AFP and local news reports.
- The fire broke out after an air-conditioning unit short-circuited and exploded in the hospital's ICU.
- India is battling a devastating surge in COVID-19 cases that's overwhelming its medical system.
- Visit Insider's homepage for more stories.
A fire that broke out early Friday morning in a hospital in India has killed 13 COVID-19 patients, according to AFP and multiple local news reports.
The fire broke out around 3:15 a.m. at the Vijay Vallabh Hospital in the Maharashtra province after an air-conditioning unit short-circuited and exploded in the intensive care unit (ICU), according to The Times of India. Around 90 patients were inside the hospital at the time and 18 were in the ICU, which occupies the second floor of the four-story hospital, officials told The Times.
Five of the ICU patients were rescued and moved to other hospitals, officials said. The fire was put out by around 5:30 a.m.
-ANI (@ANI) April 23, 2021
Maharashtra's chief minister, Uddhav Thackeray, said he had ordered an investigation into the incident.
On Twitter, Prime Minister Narendra Modi offered his condolences to victims' loved ones and said that he had approved payments of roughly $2,700 for each next of kin of those who died in the fire, while those "seriously injured" would receive a payment of about $670.
The hospital fire isn't the first fatal disaster at an Indian hospital this week. On Wednesday, 22 COVID-19 patients who were on ventilators died after an oxygen tanker leaked at their hospital in Nashik, also in the Maharashtra province.
Maharashtra, India's second-most populous state and where Mumbai is located, recorded 67,013 new COVID-19 cases on Thursday, bringing its total to more than four million.
A second virus wave ravages India
India is in the midst of a massive second coronavirus wave that's overwhelming its hospitals.
On Thursday, the country reported 314,835 new coronavirus cases – a single-day world record. India's seven-day average of new cases is 235,150 per day, far outstripping any other country, according to The New York Times' COVID-19 case tracker. The next-highest daily average is in the US, which is reporting an average of 61,774 cases per day – about a quarter of India's average daily new cases.
Experts told the BBC the actual death toll in India is likely much higher than the official numbers due to backlogs at crematoriums and people dying at home before they can get to hospitals or be tested for COVID-19.
Hospitals in India are running out of beds, COVID-19 treatment drugs, and oxygen supplies for patients who need ventilators. At least six hospitals in Delhi have run out of oxygen and others have said they have only hours' worth of oxygen left. Many patients have died while awaiting treatment or after being turned away from overwhelmed hospitals, according to the BBC.
The dire oxygen shortage has led some people to take matters into their own hands. Earlier this week, desperate relatives of COVID-19 patients stole oxygen cylinders from a hospital.
Meanwhile, two judges at the Delhi High Court are calling on India's steel-making plants that use industrial oxygen to halt operations and donate oxygen to hospitals, as Insider's Cheryl Teh reported. At least two steelmakers, Tata Steel and SAIL, have pledged to donate oxygen for treatment of COVID-19 patients.
India has administered about 135 million vaccine doses, leaving only 1.5% of its population fully vaccinated, according to Bloomberg's Vaccine Tracker.