India's federal health minister has said that at least 19 people have died in a fire at a private hospital in eastern India. The blaze is believed to have started in the dialysis ward of the SUM Hospital, in the city of Bhubaneswar, Odisha state on Monday 17 October at around 7.30pm local time (2pm GMT).
Around 100 patients were injured, with 35 of those rescued reported to be in critical condition and taken to other medical facilities in the city. Local media have claimed that about 120 firefighters were mobilised to tackle the fire, which is now under control.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted afterwards that he was: "Deeply anguished by the loss of lives in the hospital firein Odisha. The tragedy is mind-numbing. My thoughts are with bereaved families."
The minister for health and family welfare, Jagat Prakash Nadda ,disclosed the death toll in an interview with the Times Now TV news station. Most of the dead victims were patients being treated on the first-floor intensive care unit and died due to smoke inhalation after the fire spread to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU), say reports.
"We suspect the fire occurred due to an electric short circuit in the dialysis ward", Binoy Behera, a local fire services official, was quoted by the Times of India website as saying. It is believed that some of the frightened patients and hospital employees had attempted to jump out of the windows in the hospital, but were prevented from doing so by police.
"Some private hospitals and the government-run Capital Hospital received the dead bodies. Those patients were shifted from SUM Hospital," Khurda district collector Niranjan Sahoo told local media. Emergency services including police and firefighters broke windows in order to evacuate more than 500 patients from the hospital, according to local media.
Ramesh Manjhi, a senior fire official, said that the fire had been brought under control by late Monday night. In a similar incident in 2011, a major blaze engulfed AMRI Hospital in the city of Kolkata, killing 89 people.