Fire kills five patients at United Hospital, three of them COVID-19 positive

  • Senior Correspondent,
    Published: 2020-05-27 22:56:33 BdST

A fire has burned down the isolation unit for COVID-19 patients and those with symptoms at the United Hospital in Dhaka, leaving five dead.

Three of them had tested positive for the novel coronavirus and the two others tested negative, Dhaka Metropolitan Police’s Deputy Commissioner Sudip Kumar Chakraborty said.

The tent-like unit outside the main building of the private facility at Gulshan caught fire around 10pm on Wednesday, fire service official Kamal Hossain said.

It quickly raged through the structure as the materials used for the construction and the hand sanitizer kept inside were highly flammable, the police said.

Three units of the Fire Service and Civil Defence tamed the flames within half an hour, but not before the four-room structure was completely burned down, fire service's Kamrul said.

The authorities were not certain what caused the fire, but quoting relatives of the patients, DMP's Sudip said it appeared an air conditioner spark triggered the fire.

The last rites for the three COVID-19 patients would be held following health safety protocol for coronavirus victims while the two other bodies would be transferred to their families, according to him.

He also said the fire service would investigate whether the fire safety system at the hospital was properly installed and working.  

The dead included four men and a woman.

They have been identified as Md Mahbub, 50, Md Monir Hossain, 75, Vernon Anthony Paul, 74, Khodaja Begum, 70, and Riaz Ul Alam, 45.

Mahbub was admitted to the hospital on May 15, Monir on May 16, Paul and Khodeja on May 25, and Riaz on May 27, according to Gulshan Police Station Inspector Sheikh Shahanur Rahman.

Monir was being treated under the supervision of Dr Fatema Begum and the four others under Dr Mohammad Omar Faruq's watch.

Gulshan police chief Md Kamruzzaman said the COVID-19 unit of the hospital was a tent-like makeshift structure.

The hospital authorities suspect an electrical short-circuit triggered the fire, said Shagufa Anwar, the hospital’s chief communication and business development officer.

Wind gusts amid an inclement weather helped the fire spread fast, leaving little chance to rescue the patients at the isolation unit, she said. 

Other suspected coronavirus patients were kept at the negative pressure room, she said.

“The fire incident won’t affect treatment of other patients at the hospital,” Shagufa added.

The United Hospital started treating coronavirus patients around a month ago. 

The COVID-19 caseload in Bangladesh topped 38,000 and the death toll neared 550 on Wednesday after the first patients were detected on Mar 8.