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Sharmili Mallick

Bhandara: As many as ten newborn babies died after a fire broke out in the Special Newborn Care Unit of Bhandara District Civil Hospital in Maharashtra in the wee hours on Saturday, said doctors.

The infants were aged between a month and three months, a doctor said.

District civil surgeon Pramod Khandate said the fire broke out at the Bhandara district hospital at around 1.30 am. There were 17 babies in the unit and seven were rescued, he added.

A nurse first noticed smoke coming out from the neonatal section of the hospital and alerted doctors and other staff who reached there in five minutes, he said.

Fire brigade personnel rescued seven babies from the 'inbound ward' of the unit but could not save the 10 other babies, he said.

Khandate said the ward where newborn babies are kept requires a continuous supply of oxygen.

"There were fire extinguishers and staff used them while trying to douse the fire. There was too much smoke," he added.

Parents of the deceased children have been informed and the seven newborn babies rescued in the blaze have been shifted to another ward, he said.

Patients from the ICU ward, dialysis wing and labour ward (a room in a hospital set aside for childbirth) were also shifted to otherwards safely, he added.

The cause of the fire in the four-storeyed building is yet to be ascertained but could have been the result of an electrical short circuit, he said.

Taking a strong note of the shocking incident, Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray ordered an investigation into the cause of the fire.

Expressing anguish over the tragedy, the Chief Minister also discussed the matter with Health Minister Rajesh Tope and district authorities and said stringent punishment must be given to those found responsible.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Home Minister expressed grief over the tragic incident.

"Heart-wrenching tragedy in Bhandara, Maharashtra, where we have lost precious young lives. My thoughts are with all the bereaved families. I hope the injured recover as early as possible," tweeted Modi.

"The fire accident in Bhandara district hospital, Maharashtra is very unfortunate. I am pained beyond words. My thoughts and condolences are with bereaved families. May God give them the strength to bear this irreparable loss," Shah wrote in a tweet.

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi also condoled the death of newborn babies in the Maharashtra hospital fire and appealed the state government to provide all possible assistance to the families of the deceased and the injured.

"The unfortunate incident of fire at Bhandara District General Hospital in Maharashtra is extremely tragic. My condolences to the families of the children who lost their lives," Gandhi said in a tweet.

"I appeal to Maha Govt to provide every possible assistance to the families of the injured & deceased," he said.

(With PTI Inputs)

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