Baghdad hospital fire kills 11 newborn babies

A fire has ripped through a maternity ward at a hospital in Iraq, killing 11 newborn babies.

On Wednesday morning, several fathers searched for their missing children in vain, while angry relatives gathered outside Yarmouk hospital in western Baghdad blamed the government for the tragedy.

An Iraqi health ministry spokesman, Ahmed al-Roudaini, said the blaze broke out on Tuesday night and that the initial investigation indicated it was an electrical fire.

Mada Press, an independent news agency in the capital, reported that 29 female patients and seven babies were moved from the maternity ward and transferred to another hospital.

Baghdad authorities initially sealed off the hospital but later allowed some media into the site.

Forensic teams in masks and protective gloves searched through rubble and charred pieces of furniture at the stricken ward.

Some relatives gathered outside claimed their babies were still missing and demanded an answer from authorities.

One father, Hussein Omar, said his twins had died in the blaze, a boy and a girl born last week. The 30-year-old construction worker said the hospital had initially told him to look for them at another hospital in the city where some of the patients were moved to during the fire.

Omar said he looked but could not find his children anywhere so he returned to Yarmouk. The hospital staff then advised him to look for the twins in the morgue. “When I got there I only found charred pieces of flesh,” he said. “I want my baby boy and girl back. The government must give them back to me.”

Eshrak Ahmed Jaasar, 41, said she was unable to find her four-day-old nephew. “I came early this morning to see my nephew and his mother, but they told me about the fire,” she said. “My nephew is still missing and his mother was moved to another hospital ward.”

Jassar said she was in shock and felt very bitter about the blaze: “We pay the hospital employees thousands of Iraqi dinars to allow us in to get our loved ones basic food and milk, which they cannot provide. It’s a corrupt government that doesn’t care about its citizens and lets this happen.”

Electrical fires are common in Iraq because of shoddy maintenance and poor wiring. A lack of fire escapes also contributes to the danger whenever a fire breaks out. There is also widespread failure by construction companies and those providing building material to follow accepted standards.