Five coronavirus patients died after a fire broke out in the ICU of a designated COVID-19 hospital at Rajkot in Gujarat on Friday, officials said.
The Supreme Court took cognizance of the fire incident and sought a report from Gujarat government on the issue.
Gujarat Deputy Chief Minister Nitin Patel said 26 patients at the hospital were rescued and shifted to other facilities.
The fire broke out around 12.30 am in the ICU ward located on the first floor of the four-storey Uday Shivanand Hospital in Anand Bungalow Chowk area, where around 31 patients were admitted, Patel added.
Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani expressed grief over the incident and ordered a probe into it. He also announced a compensation of Rs 4 lakh to the kin of each deceased.
Rajkot Police Commissioner Manoj Agarwal said, "Out of the 11 coronavirus patients admitted to the ICU ward, five lost their lives in the fire, which was quickly brought under control before it could spread to other floors."
Patel said the blaze broke out in the ICU ward and was brought under control within half an hour by the fire brigade. While three coronavirus patients died on the spot, two others succumbed to the injuries while they were being shifted to another hospital, he added.
"Nobody else was injured in the incident. Twenty-six other patients, including those who were undergoing treatment on the upper floors, were shifted to other hospitals," Patel said.
Preliminary probe revealed that the fire was a result of short circuit in a ventilator, he said, adding that the private hospital had fire NOC and all the firefighting equipment was installed there.
The Chief Minister's Office said senior IAS officer AK Rakesh would carry out the probe into the incident.
In August, eight COVID-19 patients were killed after a fire broke out on the top floor of a four-storey private hospital in Ahmedabad.
In the Supreme Court, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Centre, assured the bench that the Union home secretary will convene a meeting latest by Saturday and issue directions on fire safety in government hospitals across India.
A bench of Justices Ashok Bhushan, R S Reddy and M R Shah, while taking note of the surge in COVID19 cases in the country, said that states have to rise to the occasion and be above politics to deal with the pandemic.
It is high time that strict measures are taken to implement the policy, guidelines and Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) to contain the surge of coronavirus cases nationwide, the bench said.
Mehta told the bench that the ongoing COVID-19 wave appears to be harsher than before and ten states are currently contributing 77 per cent of the total positive cases.
The bench observed that strict measures are needed to deal with the situation and posted the matter for further hearing on December 1.