Fire ravaged the maternity and neonatal intensive care unit of a hospital in Saudi Arabia early on Thursday 24th Dec 2015, killing at least 25 people and injuring more than 100 in the third mass calamity to hit the desert kingdom in the past four months.
The blaze, which started by an electrical problem, left part of the general hospital in Jizan, a southwest port city, in blackened ruins. At least one of the dead was a child, and Saudi television quoted a witness as saying he could “hear the women screaming” as flames raced through the ground-floor ward.
Twenty-one civil defence teams had assisted in putting out the blaze. The teams were able to evacuate the children and patients from the intensive care unit, the health ministry said on Twitter, but most casualties were on the hospital’s upper floors.
The hospital had been cited previously for safety violations, the state-owned Al Arabiya news channel reported. It quoted the region’s director of health affairs, Ahmed al-Sahli, as denying that the facility had any safety problems.
Last Thursday’s fire sparked a wave of criticism from social media users who complained that Jazan province, especially its hospitals, suffered from inadequate infrastructure.
A Twitter user named Ahmed said the province had been neglected by the state for decades.
“Maybe this catastrophe could put the spotlight on the disastrous situation of hospitals in Jazan … Even though we have little hope,” wrote another user. Others called for the health minister to be sacked.
“The disaster at Jazan General Hospital is the result of great negligence and the health ministry and health minister specifically and the hospital administration, interior ministry, and civil defense are all responsible before God,” said another.
So who is responsible now? Us? The government? The constructors?
It’s high time we learn lessons from all our mistakes. And stop playing the blame-game and take action
We must be careful in all our constructions and make sure we use fire retardant cables. All places need to review their fire and safety systems and the integrity of key elements such as staircases, have them independently assessed and audited and then publish the results for everyone to see.
The slimmest of silver linings can, as ever, potentially be seen on the horizon in terms of future improvements in safety, not that this could ever amount to a sliver of comfort to the bereaved. But we must not have any tragedy anywhere anymore. No more. No more…
Source – Reuters