KANPUR: It was around 7.40 am on Sunday when a senior resident at the LPS Institute of Cardiology and Cardiac Surgery here noticed smoke coming out of a storeroom on the ground floor of the hospital.
He rushed to alert the hospital staff, some of whom immediately grabbed firefighting equipment and began trying to put out the fire.
Minutes later, panic ensued as patients and their attendants noticed the commotion and the dense smoke filling up the centrally air-conditioned building and frantically tried to escape.
A patient, Raees, a resident of Jajmau here, said he was lying in bed when he saw people running helter-skelter and the hospital staff breaking windows to let out the smoke that had filled up the entire hospital.
There was a stampede-like situation among the patients and their attendants, said Ram Bharose, a sweeper at the state-run hospital who helped evacuate patients.
"Staff members rushed to the first floor and tried to evacuate the patients but experienced difficulty in breathing. We immediately broke the windows and used bedsheets to take the patients out of the ICU and other wards," he said.
Of the 145 patients admitted in the hospital, two -- Rasoolan Bi (80) and Tek Chand (75) -- died, according to hospital authorities.
However, the hospital authorities said that Tek Chand died before the fire broke out and Rasoolan Bi died later.
A relative of Tek Chand who managed to get out in time said, "I felt trapped and that I would not come out alive as the cloud of smoke made breathing very difficult."
Director of LPS Institute of Cardiology and Cardiac Surgery Dr.Vinay Krishna said immediately after senior resident Dr.Ranjan noticed the smoke, the hospital authorities informed the police and the fire department.
A couple of fire tenders were dispatched within minutes.
Later, half-a-dozen more fire tenders arrived.
Additional Commissioner of Police, Kanpur, Akash Kulhari said at least nine fire tenders were rushed to the hospital.
A hospital employee said sweepers and other staff showed great courage and evacuated patients before the fire could spread.
Some workers also suffered minor injuries while trying to evacuate the patients.
Of the total 145 patients admitted in the hospital, 15 were admitted for angioplasty, two for open-heart surgery and six for further heart surgeries, a hospital official said.
Most patients have been shifted to the new building of the Institute of Cardiovascular Diseases, he said.
A short-circuit is suspected to have led to the fire, according to police.
The hospital was established in 1975.
The JK Charitable Trust had donated the building for the institute and it was named as Laxmipat Singhania Institute of Cardiology and Cardiac Surgery.