BHOPAL: They had just been out of the protective womb of their mothers and yet to see the world around them, but the cruel fate snuffed life out of them in a split second after fire broke out at a hospital here and claimed the lives of four infants.
The newborns, who were just about one to nine days old, had not even been named by their parents as they were admitted to the Special Newborn Care Unit (SNCU) of the government-run Kamala Nehru Hospital for treatment.
The parents, overjoyed by the birth of their children, were probably thinking of names for them, but it could not happen.
Now, they will only be remembered in this world as the "baby of Irfana, baby of Shivani, baby of Shajma and baby of Rachna," a health official said.
A picture of the medical equipment, monitors, ventilators, and other critical life-saving devices covered in black soot was enough to tell the tale of the ghastly tragedy inside the ward.
State Medical Education Minister Vishwas Sarang, who was among the first few persons to reach the spot soon after getting information about the blaze, described the scene inside the ward as "very scary".
The fire broke out around 8.35 pm on Monday in the SNCU of the medical facility, situated on the campus of the Gandhi Medical College and Hamidia Hospital, which has the Upper Lake located on one side and state chief minister's official residence on the other side.
As the news of the fire spread, there was complete chaos in the hospital, according to eyewitnesses.
Anxious parents were desperate to enter the ward to pick up and save their children, but they were prevented from doing so by the security staff, they said.
Soon after the blaze, thick smoke engulfed the ward and it was pitch dark inside.
A handy mobile phone torch was also not of much use amid the poor visibility there, eyewitnesses said.
Doctors and nurses tried to shift the newborns to other wards.
They managed to shift all the 40 children out, but were unable to save the lives of four of them who were already in a serious condition.
Later, some of the parents also on their own shifted their children from other wards to safer places.
In a video of the incident that went viral on social media, a stretcher was seen with four-five children along with a medical staff member carrying oxygen cylinders on his shoulders.
Worried parents were seen running around the place in search of their children.
Angry family members of some infants also alleged that instead of saving the children, the hospital staff fled.
While a parent was searching for his child, some others rushed out of the hospital with their children, eyewitnesses said.
Talking to PTI on Tuesday, minister Vishwa Sarang said, "I along with other medical staff shifted children to the other wards. I even broke the glass panes of the ward with my hand to allow the smoke to blow out so that we could shift the children to safer places."
"We reached the spot along with others soon after getting information about the incident. It was dark inside the ward. We shifted the children to the adjacent ward," he said.
Four children died in the fire that broke out probably due to a short circuit, Sarang said.
Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan has announced an ex-gratia of Rs 4 lakh each for the family members of the victims, he added.
A total of 40 children were admitted to the SNCU.
Of these, 36 were undergoing treatment in different wards.
In a tweet on Monday, Chouhan had said the rescue operation was swift and the blaze was brought under control.
"A high-level probe has been ordered into the incident. The probe will be conducted by ACS (additional chief secretary), health and medical education, Mohammad Suleiman," the chief minister said.
Leader of Opposition in the state Assembly and former chief minister Kamal Nath termed it as a "very painful" incident and demanded stern action against those responsible for the tragedy.
In a tweet, state BJP president Vishnu Dutt Sharma also expressed grief over the incident.