KOLKATA: Around 20 people were feared killed when a fire engulfed a hospital in the early hours of Friday morning in the eastern Indian city of Kolkata, officials said.
“As far as the reports go from the fire brigade, there have been around 20 deaths,” Firhad Hakim, the urban development minister for West Bengal, told reporters.
Most of the victims were believed to be patients, trapped by the smoke and flames that spread rapidly through the hospital building during the night.
“We have shifted 50 patients to an adjacent hospital. The situation is grim at the moment,” said fire brigade director Gopal Bhattacharya.
The fire broke out around 3:00am and was believed to have started in the basement of the five-storey AMRI hospital.
By 9:00am, the fire had largely been brought under control, but smoke continued to billow from shattered windows, as firemen struggled to reach patients and hospital staff still trapped in the building.
Distraught relatives of patients gathered outside to follow the rescue operation.
“My mother is in the intensive care unit. She’s 70 years old. I don’t know if she is alive or not,” Khokon Chakravathi told AFP.
Badal Sikari, a local resident who had helped the first emergency teams to reach the site, said he had seen “several bodies” of people who appeared to have suffocated in the smoke.
Fire engines had trouble reaching the hospital, which is surrounded by a network of narrow, winding access roads.