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Grieving Iraqis blame institutionalized corruption for hospital blaze that killed 82

The incident killed at least 82 people and injured 110 others.

2 mins read

Iraqi security forces closed the burned Ibn Al-Khatib hospital in Baghdad on Sunday, as forensic and investigative teams investigated for the cause of an oxygen tank explosion in an intensive care unit for COVID-19 patients.

Portions of the walls and windows of the second floor were slandered by grime from the blaze that followed the blast. The blaze killed at least 82 people and injured 110.  Externally, survivors and witnesses were haunted by flashbacks to Saturday night’s events.

“It was horrific,” Jabar Mohammed, 52, who was with his COVID-19-infected brother on the hospital’s third floor, told a news channel. “First, we heard the explosion and then we saw the fire coming up.”  He ran outside the room and saw residents from the area, but no other patients.

“They rushed over to us and grabbed my brother with his oxygen tank to take him out to the other section of the hospital,” the father of six said.

He said the hospital required essential safety mechanisms for such incidents, such as a sprayer system. Mohammed blamed the country’s endemic corruption and what Iraqis call ‘muhasasa’, a quota-based system introduced after the 2003 US-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein.

Mohammed Hameed and his four brothers ran from the nearby mosque to rescue patients when they heard cries for help. “Women suffocated and no one could approach to rescue them,” Hameed, aged 31, held.

Another man, who gave only his nickname, Abu Hussein, said he rescued five people, two women and three men. “It was chaotic and tragic. You could not see the person next to you due to heavy smoke,” he said. “There were many charred bodies, some they could not remove as they were stuck to the beds.”

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