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Fire in a COVID-19 hospital in North Macedonia kills several patients.

Image Credit: Stringer/EPA

On Wednesday evening, a fire engulfed a temporary COVID-19 hospital in Tetovo, North Macedonia. The country’s health minister said that atleast 14 people died as a result of the fire.

The fire started Wednesday evening at around 9pm. It is not yet known what was the cause of the fire. Firefighters rushed to the scene and managed to extinguish the fire after 45 minutes. Before it was extinguished the fire managed to spread quickly through the hospital resulting in a number of casualties. No hospital workers were killed during the accident.

One witness reported hearing someone say that they heard an explosion which was soon followed by a fire.

Everything happened in a second. We heard something explode, someone called out ‘fire’ and here began the whole drama that I do not wish on anyone.

Anonymous witness

This accident follows a series of accidents in COVID-19 hospitals that have been occuring all around the World. Last July, a hospital fire that was holding a number of COVID-19 patients resulted in 39 patients losing their lives. The fire was attributed to an oxygen ta nk explosion. Many believe that the fires in such hospitals are being caused specifically by oxygen tanks. The country had a worse death toll back in April when 80 COVID patients died as a result of oxygen tank explosion. Accidents have occured due to a spark that ignites the oxygen tanks.

Back in November 2020, a fire at an Indian hospital resulted in several deaths among COVID-19 patients. In the same month another fire struck an Intensive Care Unit that was holding COVID-19 patients in a Romanian hospital resulting in a number of casaulties.

Macedonia’s Prime Minister Zoran Zaev said that even though investigations are ongoing and a cause have not been found yet, it is believed that the fire was due to an explosion. He announced three days of national mourning. He also said,

The fire has been extinguished, but many lives have also been extinguished.

Macedonia’s Prime Minister Zoran Zaev

The Prime Minister also said that he accepted offers from NATO allies to send in experts to help in the investigation. The country which has a poor health system due to underfunding has a lot of challenges, and COVID-19 made the situation worse. Since the pandemic began the country reported 182,000 cases and 6,153 deaths. Only 27% of the 2 million population is fully vaccinated.

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