BUCHAREST, Romania - Ten COVID-19 patients were killed and others were in critical condition after fire broke out in an intensive care unit in northeast Romania on Saturday, a hospital spokesperson said.
The fire occurred in the early evening in the intensive care of the hospital in the town of Piatra Neamt. It was under control an hour later by the emergency services.
"Ten people have been declared dead and seven people are in critical condition," including a doctor, said hospital spokeswoman Irina Popa.
Eight of the victims died in the flames and two others were pronounced dead following their evacuation.
The doctor on duty, who tried to help the victims, suffered second and third degree burns to 80 percent of his body, the rescue service said.
The cause of the blaze was unclear and the prosecutor general opened an enquiry into the tragedy. The health ministry suggested the fire could have been caused by an electrical short circuit.
The local prefect set up a crisis cell and Health Minister Nelu Tataru was expected to visit the scene.
Largely spared during when the first wave of the coronavirus hit Europe, Romania has in recent weekly seen mounting numbers of cases and hospitalizations.
On Saturday, it reported 129 new virus fatalities, bringing total deaths to 8,813 since the start of the pandemic.
The country of 19 million residents is one of the poorest in the European Union and ill-equipped to deal with a spike in hospital cases.
Its dilapidated health system suffers from a severe shortage of doctors, especially in small towns.
It was the deadliest fire in Romania since October 2015, when a pyrotechnics display caused a blaze at a Bucharest nightclub which left 64 people dead.
© Agence France-Presse