Responsibility for Saudi hospital fire disputed

A fire injured 141 in a Jizan hospital last week, with authorities now ascertaining the appropriate body accountable for the incident

A fire broke out in Jizan on Thursday. [Image: Twitter/KSA_998]
A fire broke out in Jizan on Thursday. [Image: Twitter/KSA_998]

The accountable body behind the fire in a Saudi Arabian hospital, which injured up to 141, is being disputed in the Kingdom. 

A fire started in the general hospital's intensive care unit (ICU) and maternity ward on Thursday, 24 December. 

The hospital is situated in Jazan, the capital of Saudi's Jizan region. 

Arabian Business cited government-controlled al-Ekhbariya television, which reported a witness stating it "seemed" an electrical failure started the fire, which took "only three minutes to sweep through the hospital". 

The cause of the fire, and the body responsible for it, are now being disputed in the country.  

Al-Arabiya TV, according to Arabian Business, reported several emergency doors in the hospital were locked with chains when its correspondent visited the site after the fire. 

The hospital had reportedly received official warnings about safety violations in the past. 

The region's Director of Health Affairs, Ahmed al-Sahli, denied any safety problems, telling al-Arabiya that many people had been able to escape easily from the blaze because the doors were open and safety equipment was in place.

Arabian Business stated Falih said in a statement that he recognised the ministry had failed, but that it was too early to identify the causes of the disaster and a committee would investigate them.

"When we have deaths like this number, there is no doubt that there is a failure in the system of the ministry of health, and we would like to ensure that this will not occur again at any other hospital," he said.

Falih added that the fire originated on the hospital's first floor, with smoke spreading to its second and third levels.

Deaths at the hospital, Falih added, were due to "smoke suffocation", not direct burns to the body.  

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