Fire kills at least 83 at COVID-19 hospital in southern Iraq

Fire kills at least 83 at COVID-19 hospital in southern Iraq
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People gather as a massive fire engulfs the coronavirus isolation ward of Al-Hussein hospital in the southern Iraqi city of Nasiriyah. (AFP)
Fire kills at least 83 at COVID-19 hospital in southern Iraq
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Iraqis mourn next to the coffins of victims, killed in a fire that broke out at Al-Hussain coronavirus hospital in Nassiriya. (Reuters)
The fire broke out at the Imam Al-Hussein Hospital in the Dhi Qar governorate. (INA)
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The fire broke out at the Imam Al-Hussein Hospital in the Dhi Qar governorate. (INA)
Fire kills at least 83 at COVID-19 hospital in southern Iraq
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Rescuers look for bodies after the catastrophic blaze erupted at a coronavirus hospital ward in the Al-Hussein Hospital. (AP)
Fire kills at least 83 at COVID-19 hospital in southern Iraq
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Iraqis mourn next to the coffins of victims, killed in a fire that broke out at Al-Hussain coronavirus hospital in Nassiriya. (Reuters)
Fire kills at least 83 at COVID-19 hospital in southern Iraq
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Several people have been arrested over the blaze - the second massive hospital fire in the country in just three months. (Reuters)
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Updated 13 July 2021

Fire kills at least 83 at COVID-19 hospital in southern Iraq

Fire kills at least 83 at COVID-19 hospital in southern Iraq
  • Reports suggest oxygen tank explosion inside the hospital’s COVID-19 ward was the cause
  • Tragedy comes just months after similar blaze at Baghdad COVID-19 hospital killed 82

RIYADH: The death toll in Iraq's coronavirus hospital fire in the southern city of Nassiriya has risen to 83, and over 100 people were also injured, state media said on Tuesday. 
The fire which erupted at Imam Al-Hussein Hospital in the Dhi Qar governorate, the capital of Nassiriya, is likely caused by an oxygen tank explosion, health officials said. 
“The victims died of burns and the search is continuing,” said Haydar Al-Zamili, and Iraqi health official, adding that there were fears victims could still be trapped inside the building. The ward itself has space for 60 patients.
The interior ministry said in a statement that “civil defense teams are battling a fire accident in the center of Dhi Qar governorate inside Imam Al-Hussein Hospital.”
Iraq’s civil defense said that the fire was completely under control after authorities evacuated the patients, Iraq’s news agency reported.
Maj. Gen. Kazem Salman Buhan said the hospital is made up of “caravans built with flammable sandwich panels,” adding that he “will soon announce a detailed report on the causes of the fire.”
Dhi Qar’s health department has declared a state of emergency in the governorate, and doctors have been ordered on leave to help treat the injured.
Iraqi Prime Minster Mustafa Al-Kadhimi also held an emergency meeting with a number of ministers and security leaders to find out the causes and repercussions of the fire.
Following the meeting, Al-Kadhimi formed a governmental committee to launch a high-level investigation into the causes of the fire, and sent a team of ministers and security officials to immediately head to Dhi Qar to follow up on the procedures on the ground.
He also issued a decision to suspend the directors of the Dhi Qar health department, the hospital, and the civil defense, and arrest and subject them to the investigation.

 


The premier also directed various ministries to send urgent medical and relief aid to the governorate, and ordered to send the wounded who are in critical condition outside Iraq for treatment. 
An official day of mourning has also been declared for the victims. 
“The catastrophe of Al-Hussein Hospital is clear proof of the failure to protect the lives of Iraqis, and it is time to put an end to this,” wrote Mohamed Al-Halbousi, Iraq’s Parliament Speaker, on Twitter.
Sixteen people have been rescued from the blaze, a medical source said late Monday.
Initial police reports suggested that an oxygen tank explosion inside the hospital’s COVID-19 ward was the likely cause of the fire, a policeman at the scene of the fire said.
Health sources said the death toll could rise as many patients were still missing. Two health workers were among the dead, they said.
In April, a fire caused by an oxygen tank explosion at a COVID-19 hospital in Baghdad took at least 82 lives while 110 people were also injured.
Many of the victims in the April fire were on respirators and were burned or suffocated in the resulting inferno that spread rapidly through the hospital, where dozens of relatives were visiting patients in the intensive care unit.
The April fire sparked widespread anger, resulting in the suspension and subsequent resignation of then health minister Hassan Al-Tamimi.
Already decimated by war and sanctions, Iraq’s health care system has struggled to cope with the coronavirus crisis, which has killed 17,592 people and infected more than 1.438 million.
Dozens of young demonstrators boisterously protested outside the hospital after the deadly blaze.
“The (political) parties have burned us,” they shouted in unison.
The lethal blaze also sparked furious calls on social media demanding action and the resignation of top officials.
Earlier on Monday, a minor fire broke out at the health ministry’s headquarters in Baghdad, but it was quickly contained with no fatalities recorded.
(With Reuters and AFP)

 


Suicide car bomb in Somali capital kills at least 7 -official

Suicide car bomb in Somali capital kills at least 7 -official
Updated 15 sec ago

Suicide car bomb in Somali capital kills at least 7 -official

Suicide car bomb in Somali capital kills at least 7 -official

MOGADISHU: A suicide car bomb killed at least seven people in the Somali capital on Saturday at a street junction near the president's residence, an official said.
"A suicide car bomb that exploded at Ceelgaab junction killed seven people and injured eight others," Muawiye Mudeey, district commissioner of Mogadishu's Hamarjajab district told Reuters.
It was not immediately clear who was responsible for the attack, but al Shabaab, which wants to overthrow the government and impose its interpretation of Islamic law, frequently carries out such bombings.
A Reuters witness at the scene of the blast reported seeing seven cars and three rickshaws destroyed by the blast, and the whole junction covered in blood. 


Iraqi Kurdistan conference pushes Baghdad-Israel normalization

Iraqi Kurdistan conference pushes Baghdad-Israel normalization
Updated 5 min 18 sec ago

Iraqi Kurdistan conference pushes Baghdad-Israel normalization

Iraqi Kurdistan conference pushes Baghdad-Israel normalization
  • Iraqi Kurdistan maintains cordial contacts with Israel, but the federal government in Baghdad does not have diplomatic ties with the Jewish stat

IRBIL: More than 300 Iraqis, including tribal leaders, attended a conference in autonomous Kurdistan organized by a US think-tank demanding a normalization of relations between Baghdad and Israel, organizers said Saturday.
The first initiative of its kind in Iraq, where Israel’s sworn enemy Iran has a very strong influence, the conference took place on Friday and was organized by the New York-based Center for Peace Communications (CPC).
The CPC advocates for normalizing relations between Israel and Arab countries, alongside working to establish ties between civil society organizations.
Iraqi Kurdistan maintains cordial contacts with Israel, but the federal government in Baghdad does not have diplomatic ties with the Jewish state.
Four Arab nations — the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Morocco and Sudan — last year agreed to normalize ties with Israel in a US-sponsored process dubbed the Abraham Accords.
“We demand our integration into the Abraham Accords,” said Sahar Al-Tai, one of the attendees, reading a closing statement in a conference room at a hotel in the Kurdish regional capital Irbil.
“Just as these agreements provide for diplomatic relations between the signatories and Israel, we also want normal relations with Israel,” she said.
“No force, local or foreign, has the right to prevent this call,” added Tai, head of research at the Iraqi federal government’s culture ministry.
The 300 participants at the conference came from across Iraq, according to CPC founder Joseph Braude, a US citizen of Iraqi Jewish origin.
They included Sunni and Shiite representatives from “six governorates: Baghdad, Mosul, Salaheddin, Al-Anbar, Diyala and Babylon,” extending to tribal chiefs and “intellectuals and writers,” he told AFP by phone.
Other speakers at the conference included Chemi Peres, the head of an Israeli foundation established by his father, the late president Shimon Peres.
“Normalization with Israel is now a necessity,” said Sheikh Rissan Al-Halboussi, an attendee from Anbar province, citing the examples of Morocco and the UAE.
Kurdish Iraqi leaders have repeatedly visited Israel over the decades and local politicians have openly demanded Iraq normalize ties with the Jewish state, which itself backed a 2017 independence referendum in the autonomous region.


Morocco gets 1st batch of Turkish armed drones: report

Morocco gets 1st batch of Turkish armed drones: report
Updated 41 min 34 sec ago

Morocco gets 1st batch of Turkish armed drones: report

Morocco gets 1st batch of Turkish armed drones: report
  • Morocco already uses drones for intelligence and surveillance operations along its borders

RABAT: Morocco took delivery earlier this month of Turkish combat drones, the Far-Maroc unofficial website dedicated to military news reported.
The report, also carried by several local media outlets, comes as tensions have spiked between Morocco and neighboring Algeria in recent weeks.
The two countries are mainly at odds over the disputed Western Sahara territory, and Algeria severed ties with Morocco in August claiming “provocations and hostile” action by its neighbor.
Relations took another blow this week when Algeria on Wednesday said it has closed off its airspace to all Moroccan civilian and military traffic.
According to Far-Maroc, the North African kingdom ordered 13 Bayraktar TB2 drones from Turkey in April and a first batch of the unmanned aircraft arrived this month.
Rabat, said the report, seeks to “modernize the arsenal of the Moroccan Armed Forces (FAR) in order to prepare for any danger and recent hostilities,” but did not elaborate on these topics.
It did however add that Moroccan military personnel have trained in Turkey in recent weeks to work with the drones.
Media reports said Morocco signed a $70 million contract with the private Turkish company Baykar.
The firm is run by one of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s son-in-laws and has been exporting its Bayraktar TB2 model to Ukraine, Qatar and Azerbaijan for some years.
According to the company’s website, the Bayraktar TB2 is a “medium altitude long endurance tactical unmanned aerial vehicle capable of conducting intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance and armed attack missions” with a range of up to 27 hours.
Morocco already uses drones for intelligence and surveillance operations along its borders, according to military experts.
The Western Sahara dispute pits Morocco against the Algeria-backed Polisario Front which fought a war of independence with Rabat from 1975 to 1991.
Morocco laid claim to the former Spanish colony with rich phosphate resources and offshore fisheries after Spain withdrew in 1975, and controls around 80 percent of it.
Rabat has offered autonomy there and maintains the territory is a sovereign part of the kingdom but the Polisario is demanding a referendum on self-determination, in line with the terms of a 1991 UN-backed cease-fire deal.
Tensions rose sharply in November when Morocco sent troops into a buffer zone to reopen the only road linking Morocco to Mauritania and the rest of West Africa. The road had been blocked by the separatists.


UAE daily COVID-19 numbers continue to decline as country readies for Expo 2020 kickoff

UAE daily COVID-19 numbers continue to decline as country readies for Expo 2020 kickoff
Updated 53 min 7 sec ago

UAE daily COVID-19 numbers continue to decline as country readies for Expo 2020 kickoff

UAE daily COVID-19 numbers continue to decline as country readies for Expo 2020 kickoff
  • The country’s COVID-19 total number of cases recorded since the start of the pandemic now stands at 734,275

DUBAI: The UAE’s daily coronavirus cases continue to decline, with health officials on Friday confirming 303 new infections and three virus-related deaths.

The country’s COVID-19 total number of cases recorded since the start of the pandemic now stands at 734,275 with 2,086 fatalities related to the disease. 

The government’s inoculation program, coupled with an active testing policy for the early detection and intervention for coronavirus cases, has provided at least a dose of COVID-19 vaccines to 90.8 percent of the UAE population.

The recent decline in daily infections comes just days before the opening of the Expo 2020 Dubai, which the emirate hopes will draw millions from around the globe.


’Soon’ in Iranian parlance differs from West’s in nuclear talks, Iran’s top diplomat says

’Soon’ in Iranian parlance differs from West’s in nuclear talks, Iran’s top diplomat says
Updated 25 September 2021

’Soon’ in Iranian parlance differs from West’s in nuclear talks, Iran’s top diplomat says

’Soon’ in Iranian parlance differs from West’s in nuclear talks, Iran’s top diplomat says
Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian said on Saturday that when his government says it will return soon to talks on resuming compliance with the 2015 nuclear deal, it means when Tehran has completed its review of the nuclear file.
On Friday, Amirabdollahian told reporters in New York that Iran would return to talks “very soon,” but gave no specific date.
In remarks broadcast on state TV channel IRINN on Saturday, Amirabdollahian said, “People keep asking how soon is soon. Does it mean days, weeks or months?”
“The difference between Iranian and Western ‘soon’ is a lot. To us,‘soon’ means really in the first opportune time — when our reviews (of the nuclear file) have been completed. What is important is our determination to return to the talks, but those that are serious and guarantee the Iranian nation’s rights and interests,” Amirabdollahian said.
He was speaking to IRINN in New York on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly.
On the other hand, he said: “I remind you of the West’s promises, such as repeatedly promising they would ‘soon’, ‘in a few months,’ implement the Instex” — a trade mechanism set up to barter humanitarian goods and food after the US withdrawal from the deal.
Iran has said the channel with Europe has been ineffective.
Under the 2015 deal that Iran signed with world powers, it agreed to curb its nuclear program in return for the lifting of sanctions. Washington abandoned that deal in 2018 and unilaterally reimposed financial sanctions.
Talks that began in April between Iran and the five other nations — Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia — to revive the deal have been stalled since hard-line cleric Ebrahimi Raisi was elected president in June.
European diplomats have served as chief intermediaries between Washington and Tehran, which has refused to negotiate directly with US officials.