Bharuch: At least 18 coronavirus patients died after a fire broke out at a hospital in Gujarat’s Bharuch in the early hours on Saturday.

Gut-wrenching visuals of the tragedy showed remains of some patients roasted alive on stretchers and beds.

There were around 50 other patients at the four- storeyed Welfare Hospital when the fire broke out in the COVID-19 ward at 1 am. They were rescued by locals and firefighters, an official said.

“As per information at 6.30 am, the death toll in the tragedy stood at 18. Immediately after the fire, we had confirmation of 12 deaths,” a police official told PTI.

The 12 patients in the COVID-19 ward died due to the fire and resultant smoke, Bharuch SP Rajendrasinh Chudasama said.

It is not clear if the remaining six also died in the Welfare hospital or while being shifted to other hospitals.

The COVID-19 designated hospital is situated on the Bharuch-Jambusar highway, around 190 km from the state capital Ahmedabad and is being run by a trust.

The cause of the fire is yet to be ascertained, the official said.

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The fire was controlled within an hour and around 50 patients were rescued by locals as well as firefighters, a fire official said. They were shifted to nearby hospitals, he added.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday expressed his anguish at the loss of lives in a fire tragedy at a hospital in Gujarat.

“Pained by the loss of lives due to a fire at a hospital in Bharuch. Condolences to the bereaved families,” Modi tweeted.

Meanwhile, wailing relatives of coronavirus patients who perished in the blaze gathered outside the building in the wee hours on Saturday, blaming the facility administration for the tragedy.

There were chaotic scenes outside the Welfare Hospital as authorities tried to calm the agitated kin of the victims.

Inside the hospital, the scenes were even grimmer as gut-wrenching visuals of the tragedy showed remains of some patients roasted alive on stretchers and beds.

“The fire was so intense that the ICU ward was almost burnt to the ground. All the equipment inside, including the ventilators and the fridge used to store the medicines and also the beds, were turned to ashes,” an eyewitness said.

Some patients were charred beyond recognition and relatives found it difficult to identify their bodies.

The blaring of the ambulances and fire tenders could be heard in the hospital’s vicinity as dozens of such vehicles rushed to the hospital to douse the fire and also to shift the patients who survived the blaze to other hospitals.

People were seen desperately trying to find out if their near and dear ones were safe inside the hospital.

Along with the rescue teams, many residents were seen volunteering to rescue the patients and shift them to ambulances so that they could be taken to nearby hospitals.

Several patients were shifted out on wheelchairs or by makeshift stretchers using cloth in absence of stretchers.

Locals pitched in to help rescue the patients and take them to the ambulances and auto-rickshaws to shift them to other hospitals in time.

Several vehicles of the district police also reached the spot to ensure that law and order remain under control.

A relative of a patient who was shifted to the civil hospital here was seen searching for the case file in a heap of waste dumped after the fire.

She said she was looking for the case file so that doctors at the hospital where he was taken could begin his treatment immediately.

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