UNITED STATES, WASHINGTON (OBSERVATORY) — Algerians woke up Tuesday to the news of a tragic fire that killed eight infants after a night-time fire engulfed a generating house in a city hundreds of kilometers southeast of the capital.
The fires broke out at around 3.50 am (2.50 GMT) at the “birth and motherhood” clinic in Oued Souf, close to the Tunisian border, civil defense official Captain Nassim Barnawi told AFP.
“Unfortunately, eight infants died, some as a result of burns and others as a result of smoke suffocation,” he said.
State television said a “preliminary investigation” showed that an “electric spark” in a “mosquito killer device” caused the disaster in a building that had been burned 16 months ago.
However, this information has not yet been confirmed by official sources, including the civil defense official contacted by AFP.
“We have succeeded in rescuing 11 infants, mothers (…) and 28 employees,” Barnawi said.
The Civil Defense moved dozens of vehicles to end the fire.
– They died in the morning.
Soon emotions and grief overwhelmed citizens, while local media published pictures of burned children’s rooms.
The private An-Nahar television station posted pictures of residents in a valley at a protest rally in front of the generating house surrounded by security forces.
“After months of marriage, my wife gave birth to twins at night, they died in the morning,” the presenter of An-Nahar read an influential testimony of the father of two dead babies.
A number of doctors told AFP that it was the first time, they remember, that children died from a fire.
In May 2018, the clinic suffered a fire that caused material damage but no injuries.
Prime Minister Noureddine Badawi, according to Algerian television, called for an urgent investigation and sent Health Minister Mohamed Merawi to the scene.
Badawi extended his condolences to the families of the victims.
Interim President Abdelkader Bensalah also offered his condolences, according to national television.
Immediate punitive steps were taken against the state director of health affairs, the director of the clinic and its protection team.
Prosecutor Wade Souf also opened an investigation, APS reported.
The health sector has the fourth budget in the country. It has 70,000 beds and 10,000 more in private hospitals, in a country with a population of over 43 million in January 2019.
Algeria has seen a peak in the number of births in four years, with about one million births a year.
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