At least 13 patients have died after a fire broke out in the intensive care unit of an Indian hospital treating coronavirus patients.
The Indian authorities said they managed to extinguish the fire, which broke out in the early hours of Friday morning, and transported four survivors to nearby hospitals.
The accident comes amid a second deadly wave of infections in India.
Hospitals were overwhelmed by the sudden rise in the number of patients, causing severe shortages of oxygen, intensive care beds and ventilators.
On Friday, India recorded 332,730 cases of Coronavirus, the highest recorded infection rate in a single day anywhere in the world, for the second consecutive day. Daily deaths from Covid-19 rose at a record rate of 2,263 deaths in the past 24 hours.
The fire occurred at Vijay Vallabh Hospital in Ferrar district of the western state of Maharashtra, 70 km north of Mumbai.
It remains unclear how the fire started, and the Chief Minister of Maharashtra has ordered an investigation into the accident.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi offered his condolences on Twitter, describing the incident as “tragic.”
The growing number of cases of the epidemic has exacerbated the healthcare crisis that has gripped many Indian states. On Friday, the prime minister will hold meetings with prime ministers of the worst-hit states and oxygen manufacturers.
India’s highest court asked the central government to draw up a national plan by Friday, to boost the supply of oxygen, medicine, treatment and vaccines.
The Supreme Court has described the situation as a “national health emergency” – with six Supreme Courts across the country hearing petitions regarding drug shortages.
Maharashtra is the hardest-hit state in the country by number of cases and faces acute shortage of oxygen.
Two days ago, 24 patients died of Covid-19 in a hospital in another part of the state after the oxygen supply to the ventilators was cut off. This was due to a leak, which stopped the supply while refilling the oxygen tank at Zakir Hussain Hospital in Nashk city.
And in recent days, several other hospitals in Delhi said they were either running out of oxygen or rapidly dwindling supplies.
Patients died while waiting for supplies, and the majority of intensive care beds in Delhi hospitals were full.
Max Healthcare, which operates 10 private hospitals in the New Delhi region, said Friday morning that it had been waiting for new oxygen supplies for more than seven hours at two of its facilities.
The company later said supplies had finally arrived.
Three other states – Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh and Haryana – are also facing severe oxygen shortages, while other states are experiencing complete depletion of supplies.
The travel ban went into effect in the United Kingdom for visitors from India. British and Irish citizens will be permitted entry but will have to stay in one of the government designated quarantine hotels for ten days.
Canada and the United Arab Emirates suspended passenger flights from India for 30 days and Singapore tightened restrictions on travelers arriving from there.