Hospital fire kills at least 40 in eastern India

Reuters News
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Posted: Dec 09, 2011 1:49 AM
Hospital fire kills at least 40 in eastern India

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - Fire swept through a hospital in the eastern Indian city of Kolkata on Friday, killing at least 40 people, most of them patients, officials said.

The flames had yet to be brought under control and authorities did not know if there were still people trapped inside.

Local television channels showed patients being rolled out on stretchers and distraught relatives waiting outside the hospital as a thick layer of smoke engulfed the seven-storey building.

"I still don't have the details of the casualties, but the toll is very high. We have already transferred at least 40 dead bodies," the Chief Minister of West Bengal state, Mamata Banerjee, said.

Two dozen fire trucks were sent to douse the blaze and evacuate the building, but thick smoke hindered rescue operations, officials said.

"The hospital is such that neither the ladders nor the fire brigades could get through ... so the rescue operations got a little delayed and in that time the smoke had risen up to the higher levels," Firhad Hakim, the state's Urban Development Minister, told reporters.

Authorities believe the fire started in the early hours in the basement where flammable materials such as oxygen cylinders were stored.

(Reporting by Annie Banerji; Editing by Matthias Williams and Nick Macfie)