Authorities say 11 newborn babies have died in a hospital fire caused by an electrical short circuit in the western Senegalese town of Tijuana.
In the latest in a series of hospital deaths that have exposed the country’s healthcare system, President Macky Sall announced the tragedy on Twitter before announcing three days of national mourning.
“I have just learned with pain and frustration about the deaths of 11 newborns in a fire at the neonatal ward of a government hospital,” Sal wrote after the fire late Wednesday night.
“My deepest condolences to their mother and their family,” he tweeted.
“Where is Mohammed?”, Asked Abdu Aziz Sai, a distraught mother outside the Dabakh Hospital, in the town of Tivowen, a city of 40,000 people.
His infant son was taken to hospital 10 days ago and was baptized on Monday, Mohammed’s 54-year-old father, Aliun Diouf, said.
City Mayor Demba Diop said the fire was caused by a short circuit and spread very quickly.
Local media quoted eyewitnesses as saying that a gas bottle exploded, disrupting the rescue operation.
Media reports have cited Health Minister Abdullah Duf Sarr as the culprit in the electrical fault.
‘Out of Heart’
The maternity unit was equipped to care for 13 babies.
“At the time of the fire, there were 11 people whose nurses could not save,” the minister said.
“Three children have been rescued,” said Mayor Demba Diop.
The head of the World Health Organization, Tedros Adhanam Ghebreissas, tweeted that he was “heartbroken by this sad news.
“I extend my deepest condolences to the parents and families of those who lost their lives.”
Health Minister Sir, who attended a meeting with the WHO in Geneva, said “an investigation is under way to find out what happened.”
The tragedy in Tijuana comes after several other Senegalese public health incidents, which resulted in a huge disparity in healthcare services between urban and rural areas.
A hospital fire in the northern city of Lingur in late April killed four newborns. The city’s mayor noted an electrical fault in an air-conditioning unit in the maternity ward.
‘This is unacceptable’
The accident happened on Wednesday, a month after the nation mourned the death of a pregnant woman waiting in vain for a caesarean section.
The woman, named Astu Sokhna, was rushed to a hospital in the northern city of Luga with pain. The staff refused to comply with his request for a C-section, saying it was not scheduled.
He died on April 1, 20 hours after arrival.
Sokhana’s death has sparked outrage across the country over the state of the health system. Sir admitted two weeks later that death could have been avoided.
On May 11, the Luga High Court sentenced three midwives on duty on the night of Sokhna’s death to six months’ suspended imprisonment for “failing to assist a person in danger.”
Sedi Gasama, Senegal’s director for Amnesty International, said his organization had called for an inspection and upgrade of hospital neonatal services across Senegal following the “brutal” deaths of four children in Lingur.
With the new tragedy, Amnesty “urges the government to set up an independent commission of inquiry to determine the responsibilities and punish the perpetrators, regardless of the level at which they are in the state apparatus”, he tweeted.
Opposition lawmaker Mamadu Lamin Diallo also reacted angrily to the fire in Tijuana.
“More children burned at a government hospital … it’s unacceptable @MackySall,” he tweeted.
“We are sorry for the families of those to whom we extend our condolences. Enough is enough.”
(This story was not edited by NDTV staff and was automatically generated from a syndicated feed.)