Thirteen newborn babies were killed at a Baghdad hospital overnight after faulty electrical wiring caused a deadly fire to rip through the building's maternity ward. The tragic event prompted some grieving parents to compare the leadership of the hospital to the Islamic State
The director of Yarmouk hospital in western Baghdad, Saad Hatem Ahmed, told reporters that the blaze broke out late on Tuesday night and that the initial investigation indicated it was an electrical fire, though some speculated it may have been arson.
Ahmed said more than 25 babies and women also suffered burns or smoke inhalation and were evacuated to other hospitals, but twelve newborns - some of them prematurely born - were killed.
"Some of the dead babies were preemies but not all of them," said one of the doctors at the Yarmouk hospital.
The report notes that on Wednesday morning, traumatized parents searched for their missing newborns in vain while angry relatives gathered outside the hospital, blaming the government for the horrific event. The hospital is supported by the government, and patients pay little or nothing, even for major surgeries.
The New York Times explained that the cost of the government's war against the Islamic State and a drop in the price of oil have led to cutbacks in hospital funding in Iraq. Some hospitals in Baghdad have experienced extreme deprivation and been reduced to resterilizing needles and other equipment intended for one-time use. Electrical fires are reportedly common in such hospitals due to faulty maintenance and poor wiring.
One mother, Shaima Hassan lost her two-days old son in the blaze. She told reporters she had spent more than a year visiting hospitals in and outside Iraq trying to conceive.
"I waited for ages to have this baby and when I finally had him, it took only a second to lose him," she said, and shared how the chaos began at midnight at the ward, located on the ground floor.
"People started screaming, 'Fire, fire' and running," said Hassan. She and her husband, who was visiting them, ran toward the room for the newborns but were stopped by a wall of thick smoke.
"Then someone broke a window and threw me out," she added.
Another woman, Eshrak Ahmed Jaasar, 41, said she is unable to find her four-day-old nephew and expressed anger over the government's apparent inability to protect citizens, as some of the fire extinguishers didn't work during Tuesday's fire.
"I came early this morning to see my nephew and his mother, but they told me about the fire," Jasaar said. "My nephew is still missing and his mother was moved to another hospital ward."
"We pay the hospital employees thousands of Iraqi dinars to allow us in to get our loved ones basic food and milk, which they cannot provide," she added. "It's a corrupt government that doesn't care about its citizens and lets this happen."
Another mother, Shayma Husain, came to the hospital looking for her infant son, Haider Mohammad Azeez, who had not been accounted for. Speaking to reporters, she compared the leadership of the hospital to the Islamic State. "The administration of the hospital is ISIS," she said angrily. "I would not differentiate them from ISIS. They are the same thing."
One father, 30-year-old Hussein Omar, a construction worker, said he lost twins in the blaze, a baby boy and a girl born last week. After he was unable to locate his children, the hospital told him to go look at the morgue.
"I only found charred pieces of flesh," Omar said, crying. "I want my baby boy and girl back. The government must give them back to me."