Senegal’s health minister, Abdoulaye Diouf Sarr, who has since been sacked from his post, says that the state is waiting for “the expert report from SENELEC (National Electricity Company of Senegal, ed)” to find out the cause of the fire that killed 11 babies late Wednesday.
Senegal’s President Macky Sall fired the health minister on Thursday and announced three days of national mourning for the death of the newborns..
Eleven newborn babies died in a hospital fire blamed on an electrical short circuit in Senegal’s western city of Tivaouane, authorities said Thursday.
In the latest in a series of hospital deaths that have exposed the weaknesses of the nation’s healthcare system, President Macky Sall announced the tragedy on Twitter and declared three days of national mourning.
“I have just learned with pain and dismay about the deaths of 11 newborn babies in the fire at the neonatal department of the public hospital,” Sall wrote after the fire late Wednesday.
Macky would return early from abroad and visit the hospital on Saturday, his office said.
“Where is Mohamed?,” asked one of the distraught mothers outside Mame Abdou Aziz Sy Dabakh Hospital in Tivaouane, a city with a population of 40,000.
Her baby son was taken to the hospital 10 days ago and was baptised on Monday, Mohamed’s 54-year-old father Alioune Diouf said.
The city’s mayor Demba Diop said the fire had been caused by a short circuit and spread very quickly.
He denied allegations from relatives at the hospital and across social media that the babies had been left alone, saying a midwife and nurse were present Wednesday evening.
“There was a noise and an explosion, that lasted three minutes at most,” he said outside the hospital entrance.
“Five minutes after, the fire brigade arrived. People used fire extinguishers.”
The mayor said the air-conditioning had accelerated the flames and added that the two nurses fainted but were revived.
“There was no negligence,” Diop insisted.
Health Minister Abdoulaye Diouf Sarr was quoted in media reports also as blaming an electrical fault.
‘Beyond heartbroken’ –
The maternity unit was equipped to take care of 13 babies.
“At the time of the fire, there were 11, whom nurses were unable to save,” the minister said.
World Health Organization chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus tweeted that he was “beyond heartbroken with this tragic news.
“I’m sending my deepest condolences to the parents and families of the babies who lost their lives.”
Health Minister Sarr, who had been in Geneva attending a meeting with the WHO, said an investigation is under way.
The tragedy in Tivaouane comes after several other public health incidents in Senegal, which suffers from a great disparity between urban and rural areas in healthcare services.
In the northern town of Linguere in late April, a fire broke out at a hospital and four newborn babies were killed. The town’s mayor cited an electrical malfunction in an air conditioning unit in the maternity ward.