Delhi hospital where newborn babies died had no licence

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Reuters A view of damaged Neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) ward of a baby care hospital where several newborns died in a fire, in New Delhi, India, May 26, 2024. REUTERS/Adnan AbidiReuters

A view of the damaged neonatal intensive care unit where several babies died

A hospital in Indian capital Delhi where seven babies died in a fire was operating without a valid licence, police said.

The fire occurred on Saturday, leading to the arrests of the hospital owner and the doctor on duty.

An investigation has found that the hospital also did not have fire extinguishers or an emergency exit.

The tragedy took place hours after a fire broke out in a gaming arcade in Gujarat state’s Rajkot city, killing 27 people.

Fires often break out in residential and commercial buildings in India due to a lax enforcement of safety norms.

Saturday’s tragedy, where a blaze engulfed the hospital in Delhi’s Vivek Vihar neighbourhood, has horrified and angered people.

Police commissioner Shahdara Surendra Chaudhary told ANI news agency that the hospital’s NOC (No Objection Certificate) had expired on 31 March.

A fire NOC – which certifies that a building meets fire safety standards – is required for hospital buildings that have a height of more than 15m (49ft).

Mr. Chaudhary added that the hospital was permitted only five beds but had installed 10.

At the time of the fire, 12 newborn babies were at the hospital. Five of them are now being treated at another hospital.

Police have arrested Dr Naveen Kichi, director of the hospital and a doctor named Akash (the police shared only one name) in connection with the fire. They have been charged with culpable homicide.

Dr Akash, who was on duty at the time of the incident, was not qualified to treat newborn babies in need of intensive care, police said.

The Delhi government has ordered a magisterial inquiry.

Reuters hospital fireReuters

A blaze engulfed the hospital building on Saturday

Dramatic visuals of fire engulfing the building on Saturday circulated on social media.

The director of Delhi’s fire department, Atul Garg, told the Press Trust of India news agency that the fire had spread due to a blast in an oxygen cylinder.

Media reports say that the police is also investigating the possibility of the hospital running an illegal oxygen cylinder filling racket after locals reported suspicious activities.

Officials also said rescue efforts were slowed by limited access to the building, which has a single staircase and no fire escape.

Delhi’s Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said the tragedy was “heartbreaking”.

“The causes of the incident are being investigated and whoever is responsible for this negligence will not be spared,” Mr Kejriwal said.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi described it as “heart-rending.” He has announced an ex gratia of 200,000 rupees ($2407; £1889) to the family members of each of the deceased and 50,000 rupees each to those injured.



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