THANE: Four patients died after a fire broke out following short circuit at a private hospital near Thane in Maharashtra in the wee hours of Wednesday, civic officials said.
Timely action by local people who ripped off the iron grill at the back of the hospital building to enable patients to escape saved many lives, they said.
The patients died while being shifted to other hospitals after the blaze and not due to burns, said one official.
They may have inhaled smoke after the fire, he added.
The incident comes five days after 15 coronavirus patients died in a blaze in the intensive care unit of a private hospital at Virar in the adjoining Palghar district.
Wednesday's fire broke out at the Prime Criticare Hospital at Kausa-Mumbra locality at 3.40 am, the official said.
There were no coronavirus patients in the hospital, he added.
Three fire engines and five ambulances were rushed to the spot.
The blaze has been extinguished, the official said.
Twenty patients including six in the intensive care unit of the hospital were evacuated, he said.
Maharashtra minister and local MLA Jitendra Awhad told reporters at the scene that the fire destroyed the first floor of the hospital.
The family of each deceased will be given a compensation of Rs five lakh and those injured will get Rs one lakh each, he added.
A high-level enquiry committee has been constituted to go into the cause of the fire, the minister said.
It will comprise officials from the Thane Municipal Corporation and also police and medical personnel.
Deputy Municipal Commissioner Manish Joshi said that action by some locals who ripped off the grill at the backside saved many lives.
Prima facie a short circuit in the meter box resulted in the fire, he said, adding that the ICU was not damaged.
Farhan Ansari, a lawyer who lives across the road from the hospital, said he spotted flames and smoke around 3.30 am.
"We got a crow bar and simply ripped off the grill at the back and pulled out some patients," he said.
Maharashtra has witnessed a series of deadly accidents at hospitals in the last few months.
Twenty two COVID-19 patients on ventilator or oxygen support suffocated to death when their oxygen supply stopped suddenly due to a malfunction in the main storage at a civic hospital in Nashik last week.
A fire broke out in Mumbai's Dreams Mall, which housed a Covid-designated hospital, in the intervening night of March 25-26.
The fire, which raged for over 40 hours, claimed nine lives, including those of patients on ventilator support.
Ten infants died in a fire at a special newborn care unit of the Bhandara district hospital in the state on January 9.
Seventeen infants, aged one to three months, were in the ward at the time of the tragedy.
In October last year, two patients died while being shifted after a fire broke out at a private hospital in Mumbai's Mulund suburb.
Thane Guardian Minister Eknath Shinde, meanwhile, told reporters he had ordered the Municipal Commissioner to carry out fire, oxygen and electrical audit of all the hospitals in the city limits.
Healthcare workers, police as well as the civic staff are under great stress for the last one year, but still we will ensure such an incident does not recur, the minister said.
Mumbra police said as of now a case of accidental deaths has been registered and further probe is on.