Explosion in equipment likely began hospital fire in which 10 kids died

The fire that killed 10 babies in a hospital in Bhandara, Maharashtra, early on Saturday was likely caused by an explosion in one of the several radiant warmers in the Sick New-born Care Unit (SNCU), believe the officials who carried out a preliminary inspection at the hospital on Sunday.

The radiant warmer burst into flames after the explosion — the first of two loud noises heard by hospital staff that night — and the seven-day-old baby inside “was found burnt like coal”, officials said.

The baby had been abandoned on a roadside, and brought to the hospital by police. This and nine other babies were killed in the fire that broke out in the SNCU of Bhandara District General hospital at 1.30 am on Saturday.

While it is suspected that the fire started after the explosion in the radiant warmer, members of the inquiry committee said they were yet to reach a final conclusion.

“Inquiry is still going on. We will submit the report in a few days. At this point we cannot comment on how or where the fire started. But we will go into each and every detail,” Dr Sadhana Tayade, director of the Directorate of Heath Services (DHS), who is heading the six-member committee, said.

Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray visited the hospital on Sunday and met the families of the babies who had died.

“I offered my condolences to the parents. There will be a strict inquiry into this incident and we will take action against those responsible,” the CM said.

Hospital sources said the premature baby was admitted in the “out-born” section and kept in a radiant warmer to help maintain his body temperature. The warmers were lined up in a row in the SNCU. The one that had the seven-day-old boy was completely gutted, and the adjoining warmers on either side were partially damaged. Babies in those two warmers also suffered burn injuries. The other babies died due to smoke inhalation.

District officials said hospital management services firm Faber Sindoori conducted an equipment audit at the SNCU on September 2, 2020, and found all equipment working and in good condition. A bi-annual calibration of equipment was conducted on September 16, and the reports were normal.