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7 newborns killed in Delhi hospital fire

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7 newborns killed in Delhi hospital fire

Firefighters attempt to douse the hospital blaze in New Delhi. ANI

Tribune News Service

Anshita Mehra

New Delhi, May 26

Seven newborns, six 15 days old and one 25 days old, were killed in a massive fire that broke out at a private children’s hospital in east Delhi’s Vivek Vihar late Saturday night, officials said on Sunday.

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Twelve newborns were admitted to Baby Care Newborn Hospital and the five who survived have been admitted to another facility in the city.

In shocking revelations, the Delhi Police said the hospital was operating despite the expiry of its licence on March 31 and it had no clearance from the fire department and also lacked qualified doctors. “Even the expired licence issued to the hospital allowed only five beds,” Deputy Commissioner of Police (Shahdara) Surendra Choudhary said.

Interior of the Baby Care Hospital

Delhi Fire Services officials said the blaze broke out around 11.30 pm and soon spread to two other adjacent buildings. Oxygen cylinders kept in the two-storey building exploded due to which the adjacent buildings were damaged, the officials said.

Kin of victims attack Dr Akash as police bring him to the hospital. MANAS RANJAN BHUI & PTI

According to eyewitnesses, locals and members of an NGO, Shaheed Sewa Dal, were the first to rush for help. Some residents are learnt to have climbed the building from the backside and rescued some of the infants. A resident, Mukesh Bansal, alleged that an unauthorised oxygen refilling cylinder work was being carried out in the building. “We had complained about it to the local councillor as well, but nothing was done. It was all happening under the nose of the police,” he alleged. Bansal also said that he used to live next to the hospital but due to the illegal work of refilling cylinders, he shifted to the next lane.

The police have arrested the owner of the centre, Naveen Khichi, who had earlier absconded, apart from one doctor (Dr Akash) who was on duty at the time of the fire. The owner has been booked under Section 336 (endangering personal safety of others) and Section 304A (causing death by negligence) at the Vivek Vihar police station.

District Magistrate Shahdara Rishita Gupta, in her preliminary report, said the hospital had 12 neonatal admissions at the time of the fire. The report said the fire raged for 81 minutes before it was brought under control. “One died on the spot. The 11 others were taken to a nearby hospital where six were declared dead upon arrival,” the report said.

Fire department officials said 16 fire tenders were pressed into service to control the blaze. They said the rescue efforts were affected due to a single staircase and no fire escape.

The front portion of the hospital was completely engulfed in flames and the staff rushed out from the rear side after the fire erupted. Eyewitnesses said the staff had to break a window in the rear of the building to escape and rescue the infants.

Condoling the deaths, President Droupadi Murmu prayed for strength to the bereaved parents. Prime Minister Narendra Modi called the tragedy “heart-rending” and announced an ex gratia of Rs 2 lakh for the next of kin of each deceased. Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said those responsible for negligence would not be spared. (With PTI inputs)

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