A fire at a Romanian hospital treating COVID-19 patients has killed seven people, the country’s interior minister said.
The blaze broke out early October 1 at the intensive care unit at the Hospital for Infectious Disease in the port city of Constanta, the Emergency Situations Directorate said in a statement.
There was initial confusion about the number of victims, with local authorities reporting nine dead among the 10 patients in the unit treating serious COVID-19 cases.
However, prosecutors investigating the fire later said only seven people had been killed, Interior Minister Lucian Bode told a news conference.
Firefighters extinguished the fire after an hour, with help from additional teams brought in from nearby regions.
Patients and staff at the facility were evacuated, authorities said. Bode said that 125 patients were in the hospital at the time of the fire.
Romania has been marred by several deadly hospital blazes in recent years, two of them during the pandemic.
Five patients died in January in a fire in the COVID-19 ward of a Bucharest hospital, two months after another blaze killed 15 patients in the intensive care unit of a COVID-19 hospital in Piatra Neamt in northeastern Romania.
Romania is suffering a new wave of COVID-19 infections, as the vaccination rate for its population is second-lowest in the European Union.
The government has struggled to boost the number of intensive care beds and direct more resources for treatments and medication. As of October 1, there were only six intensive care unit beds available in the whole country, health officials said.
Authorities reported 10,887 new infections and 169 deaths on October 1, a day after more than 12,000 cases were registered — a record since the start of the pandemic that so far has infected 1,244,555 people. A total of 37,210 people have died so far.
Complicating matters is political infighting which has put the government on the brink of collapse. Prime Minister Florin Citu’s government is facing a no-confidence vote on October 5 brought forward by the leftist opposition.
President Klaus Iohannis said in a statement that he was “horrified” by the incident. “The Romanian state failed its basic mission of protecting its citizens,” he said.