Iraqi PM orders arrest of officials after Nasiriyah hospital fire

Iraqi Prime Minister chairs an urgent meeting with senior officials and security leaders in Baghdad, July 13, 2021. (Photo: PM office)

SULAIMANI (ESTA) — Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi on Tuesday ordered the suspension and arrest of officials in Dhi Qar province after a fire at a coronavirus hospital killed over 60 people. 

A large fire broke out at Imam al-Hussein coronavirus hospital in Nasiriyah late on Monday, killing at least 64 people.

Kadhimi held an urgent meeting with senior ministers, officials and security leaders following the fire incident, his office said in a statement.

He ordered the officials to launch a “high-level government investigation” into the incident and to find out the causes of the fire.

A policeman at the scene of the fire told Reuters that initial reports suggested that an oxygen tank explosion inside the hospital’s COVID-19 wards was the likely cause of the fire.

Kadhimi also ordered the formation of a government team including ministers and security leaders to visit Dhi Qar governorate to follow up the procedures on the ground, according to his office’s statement.

He ordered the suspension and arrest of director of health, director of the hospital, director of civil defense in the province, the statement read.

Kadhimi also decided to send the wounded who are in critical condition outside Iraq to receive treatment.

Following the decisions, General Director of Health in Dhi Qar province Saddam al-Taweel submitted his resignation to the health ministry.

“In these painful moments, I submit my resignation, believing that people’s lives are more important that the position,” he said, according to Shafaq News.

In a tweet on Tuesday, Iraqi President Barham Salih blamed the “catastrophe” at the hospital on “persistent corruption and mismanagement that undervalues the lives of Iraqis”.

He said an investigation and accountability is what the families of those killed needed, and called for a review of the country’s institutions.

In April, a fire caused by an oxygen tank explosion at a COVID-19 hospital in Baghdad killed at least 82 people and injured 110 others.

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