More than 60 children have died within five days in a hospital in India's largest state Uttar Pradesh, of whom 30 died within 48 hours. The casualties also included many newborn babies, local media reports said.
Authorities at the Baba Raghav Das Medical College Hospital in Gorakhpur have denied allegations that the deaths were due to a shortage of oxygen cylinders and have cited medical reasons.
However, hospital employees who handle the oxygen storage plant had intimated the lack of oxygen supply to the chief medical officer on Thursday (10 August) morning, stating that the supply would last only until that evening. A report from the same night showed oxygen supply at the hospital was at a critical low, NDTV reported.
The district magistrate of Gorakhpur also ruled out deaths due to oxygen shortage, saying that additional supply was arranged from other vendors. Meanwhile, police raided the offices of the vendor who supplied oxygen to the hospital and have filed a complaint against it.
Hospital authorities have said that the deaths were due to some infection and not the lack of oxygen supply, but families of the victims blame lack of facilities at the hospital for the deaths.
Nearly 23 children died at the hospital on Thursday, including 14 in the neo-natal ward. Nine children had died the previous day when Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath visited them. Seventeen deaths were reported in the first two days of the week, while seven were reported on Friday, the hospital data reportedly showed.
Meanwhile, opposition parties have put the blame on the government and are demanding the resignation of the chief minister as the incident took place in his constituency. They are also demanding the health minister's resignation. The minister has warned the opposition against politicising the issue.
Health Minister Siddharth Nath Singh has said that those responsible for the deaths will not be spared. "We are looking into details of the matter from all angles — was there a shortage? Whether the authorities were aware of this? Was there any other issue? Who is responsible? etc," he was quoted as saying by the local media.
The chief minister has also announced that an inquiry has been ordered into the tragic deaths of the children.