10 die in fire at Covid care hotel in Vijayawada
Ten patients died on Sunday at a star hotel converted into a coronavirus treatment centre in Andhra Pradesh’s Vijayawada as they tried to flee a fire suspected to have been caused by a short circuit, the government said.
Vijayawada police commissioner B. Srinivasulu confirmed the deaths. All the victims were patients, Andhra Pradesh deputy chief minister (health) A.K.K. Srinivas said.
There were 40 patients undergoing treatment at the private facility and 10 staff members of the private hospital running the centre.
According to sources in the Andhra Pradesh disaster response and fire services department, the fire apparently broke out because of an electrical short circuit in the hotel’s front lobby and spread to the first and second floors.
The panicked patients tried to escape to safety using the main stairway after they noticed smoke.
“They should have actually used a different stairway on the rear side and that would have saved their lives. Unfortunately, they used the main one in a panicky situation and got caught in the fire,” a fire official said.
While one of the victims was charred to death, nine died of asphyxiation, according to the police.
The firefighters and National Disaster Response Force personnel used ladders to bring down people who were stranded inside the hotel.
The hotel leased by a private hospital to treat coronavirus patients had “violated” safety rules, fire safety director Jairam Naik said.
“The fire alarm did not go off at the time of the accident and there was a delay in opening the rear door. Investigation has been initiated and there will be action against the hotel management,” he added.
The Andhra Pradesh government announced an ex-gratia payment of Rs 50 lakh each to the kin of the 10 victims.
State home minister M. Sucharita said an electrical short circuit appeared to be the possible cause of the fire.
A manager of the public sector Bharat Electronics Limited, who tested positive three days ago, was among the dead. A pastor who came on Saturday night to see his wife, who was a patient, died in the fire along with her, the police said. A retired government officer and a retired police sub-inspector, both aged about 80 years, were among the victims.