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Fire at Iraq COVID hospital leaves 92 dead, more than 100 injured

A fire swept through a COVID hospital ward in southern Iraq overnight, killing at least 92 and injuring more than 100. Nick Schifrin reports.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    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.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    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.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    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.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    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.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    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.

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