Support Intelligent, In-Depth, Trustworthy Journalism.
A fire swept through a COVID hospital ward in southern Iraq overnight, killing at least 92 and injuring more than 100. Nick Schifrin reports.
A fire swept through a COVID hospital ward in Iraq overnight. The state news agency says 92 people were killed in Nasiriyah, with more than 100 injured.
Nick Schifrin reports.
Today, all that's left of the hospital built to keep people alive is a site of mass death. Dozens of families lost loved ones. Their caskets became a solemn procession.
Iraqi officials say the fire likely started when faulty wiring sparked and an oxygen tank exploded. Firefighters tried to put out the blaze using cell phone flashlights because there was no electricity. They were too late, the bodies lined up, row after row, and the grief unspeakable.
Man (through translator):
The catastrophe that occurred tonight in Hussein Hospital, the quarantine hospital, is a tragedy for which there are no words.
But the tears are tainted with fury.
Haidar Al-Askar, (through translator):
The whole state has collapsed, and who has paid the price? The people inside here. These people have paid the price.
For years, Iraq's health care system has suffered corruption and mismanagement. A medic said the hospital lacked basic safety measures like a sprinkler system and fire extinguisher, and the construction was shoddy, with flammable, thin materials.
In April, another 82 people died in a hospital in Baghdad after an oxygen tank exploded.
Ali Raif, (through translator):
We have become scared to go to hospitals. Why? Because of their corruption and tyranny.
And a COVID surge is straining a weak system. Only 2.5 percent of the population is vaccinated.
Iraq's government launched an investigation and arrested hospital and local health officials. But it's little solace for relatives, who say this tragedy was preventable.
For the "PBS NewsHour, " I'm Nick Schifrin.
Watch the Full Episode
Nick Schifrin is the foreign affairs and defense correspondent for PBS NewsHour, based in Washington, D.C. He leads NewsHour's foreign reporting and has created week-long, in-depth series for NewsHour from China, Russia, Ukraine, Nigeria, Egypt, Kenya, Cuba, Mexico, and the Baltics. The PBS NewsHour series "Inside Putin's Russia" won a 2018 Peabody Award and the National Press Club's Edwin M. Hood Award for Diplomatic Correspondence. In November 2020, Schifrin received the American Academy of Diplomacy’s Arthur Ross Media Award for Distinguished Reporting and Analysis of Foreign Affairs.
Layla Quran is a general assignment producer for PBS NewsHour. She was previously a foreign affairs reporter and producer.
Support Provided By:
Support PBS NewsHour:
Subscribe to Here’s the Deal, our politics newsletter for analysis you won’t find anywhere else.
Thank you. Please check your inbox to confirm.
Additional Support Provided By: