Russia disaster: Coronavirus patients perish in hospital fire

Five intensive-care coronavirus patients perish in fire that broke out in St. Petersburg Hospital after ventilator short-circuit.

Mordechai Sones ,

Site of St. Petersburg ICU fire
Site of St. Petersburg ICU fire

A fire that broke out at St. George's Hospital in the city of St. Petersburg has taken the lives of five inpatients, all of whom coronavirus patients hospitalized in the ICU and connected to ventilators.

News agencies in Russia reported the fire probably started as result of an electrical short-circuit in a ventilator, and the flames quickly spread in the hospital's sixth-floor ICU.

150 people were evacuated from the hospital until firefighters called to the scene managed to control the blaze. "The ventilators are working to the limit of their ability. First signs show they were under heavy load and shorted and that was the cause of the fire," a St. Petersburg emergency department official told Interfax News Agency.

Russian news site NTV quoted doctors at the hospital saying: "an electric short made the ventilator explode due to high oxygen concentrations. The department was filled with thick smoke in a short time, causing the patients to suffocate."

A police official said the ventilator that exploded was relatively new and was installed in the hospital last month.

The Russian National Investigation Commission, which investigates serious crimes, launched an investigation to determine whether there was negligence that caused the fire, in the design and manufacture of the ventilator or in precautions taken by the hospital.

St. Petersburg, with a population of 4.9 million people, has so far recorded over 8,000 cases of coronavirus infection, much lower than in Moscow. The city has 5,483 hospital beds for coronavirus patients.