At least 20 killed in fire at Indian hospital

Updated: 2011-12-09 13:29


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NEW DELHI - At least 20 patients suffocated to death and about 20 others still trapped in a massive fire that broke out Friday morning at a major hospital in the eastern Indian city of Kolkata.

The eastern Indian state of West Bengal Municipal Affairs minister Firhad Hakim told local media that from information he has got from the fire department officials, at least 20 people may have died of suffocation from the heavy smoke in the fire.

Some bodies were found in departments that firemen were able to access, he said.

The fire first broke out at the basement of the AMRI hospital in Dhakuria of south Kolkata at 03:30 am, before spreading to other parts of the building said local TV Times Now.

While 20 fire engines were rushed to the scene, it took hours for them to douse the fire. Rescue work was still underway with ambulances sending patients to other hospitals for treatment. At least 40 patients were evacuated from the hospital.

TV footage showed firemen using ladders trying to break into the building by breaking the glass walls and window panes of the seven-storied hospital annexe building to rescue patients still trapped inside.

Fire accidents take place in India frequently. At least 14 trans-sexuals were burnt to death in Delhi late last month when a fire broke out at a community center where the victims were holding a meeting.

Initial reports had said that 40 patients were trapped inside the building, according to Press Trust of India.

The fire which was suspected to have originated in the electrical department in the basement of the centrally air-conditioned building swiftly spread, with the third floor and above being affected the most, the report quoted fire brigade sources as saying.

Fire Services Minister Javed Khan said the fire spread because of stocks of highly combustible material and it was still not under control, said the report.

The hospital also did not have proper fire-fighting equipment. Firemen were trying to locate oxygen cylinders stocked on the floors, as the fire could make them explode.

Commissioner of Kolkata Police RK Pachnanda rushed to the spot and panicked families of patients thronged the premises.

Personnel of the Disaster Management Group reached the scene and were assisting in the operations.