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Wednesday October 19, 2016
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This photograph taken on October 17, shows Indian rescue workers lowering a body of a victim of a massive fire at the SUM hospital building in Bhubaneswar, the capital of coastal Odisha state. — AFP picThis photograph taken on October 17, shows Indian rescue workers lowering a body of a victim of a massive fire at the SUM hospital building in Bhubaneswar, the capital of coastal Odisha state. — AFP picNEW DELHI, Oct 19 — Police arrested a doctor and three other staff on charges of homicide today over a deadly blaze at an Indian hospital that left 20 people dead.

The four from Bhubaneswar city hospital in eastern Odisha state are facing initial charges of “homicide not amounting to murder” and negligence after a fire broke out in the intensive care unit on Monday.

“All the four staffers were taken into custody late on Tuesday. They include medical superintendent, an engineer and two others,” Bhubaneswar police commissioner Yogesh Khurania told AFP.

Khurania said they arrested the staff after receiving a compliant from the Odisha state government, adding more arrests are likely to follow.  

Three of the four detained staff had been suspended by the hospital for negligence earlier yesterday. 

The fire broke out in the dialysis ward of the hospital before quickly spreading to other wards, killing 19 seriously ill patients who were unable to flee the blaze.

Another patient died in hospital yesterday, police said. 

About 40 critically ill patients were in the ICU of the private SUM hospital in state capital Bhubaneswar when the fire broke out.

In all more than 100 were rescued by firefighters who smashed windows to get them out of the burning building.

“Some patients were evacuated by breaking a window on the first floor and then they were lowered to the ground floor. And some of them were evacuated through the adjoining operation theatre which was empty at that time,” said Odisha’s health secretary Arti Ahuja.

“There are about 106 people who are (now) in different private and government hospitals,” she told the NDTV news channel.

In a separate incident, two people died yesterday morning when a high-rise luxury apartment block in the western city of Mumbai caught fire. 

The cause of the blaze was not immediately clear.

Such disasters are relatively common in India, partly because of poor safety standards.

In 2011 more than 90 patients were killed in the eastern city of Kolkata when a fire raged through a private hospital, trapping many people inside the building.

Most died from inhaling toxic gases.

Ahuja said the hospital in Odisha had been sealed off and a detailed inquiry would be carried out to establish the cause of the disaster.

Local television stations showed images of firefighters wearing masks smashing glass panes to enter the building.

Police inspector Sharat Kumar Sahu said more than 100 firefighters had battled the blaze for around five hours until it was brought under control.

Most of the critical patients were on ventilators and died in the blaze, he said.

The state’s chief minister Naveen Patnaik said he had visited the evacuated patients in hospital and ordered an inquiry into what he called a “tragic incident”.

A government relief fund would bear the cost of their treatment, he said on Twitter. — AFP

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