Ten people perished on Wednesday evening, September 8, in North Macedonia in a virulent fire following an explosion in a Covid-19 unit, the authorities of the small Balkan state announced.

“A huge tragedy has occurred in the Covid-19 center in Tetovo”said Prime Minister Zoran Zaev, who immediately visited this small town in the northwest of the country. “An explosion caused a fire. The fire was extinguished but many lives were lost ”, added the head of government on Facebook.

“For the moment, ten people are confirmed dead but this number may increase”Health Minister Venko Filipce said on Twitter.

The fire occurred in the Covid-19 unit of the Tetovo hospital center as the Former Yugoslav Republic celebrated the thirtieth anniversary of its independence. Shortly before the tragedy, festivities were organized in Skopje, in particular a parade of the army and the police force as well as a concert of the national philharmonic orchestra.

An explosion of undetermined causes

The flames ravaged part of the modular structures recently built in front of the hospital center to accommodate patients with the new coronavirus. Several hours after the disaster, people strolled worriedly in front of charred containers while stretcher bearers came and went next to emergency vehicles, noted a journalist from Agence France-Presse (AFP).

The explosion occurred for reasons as yet undetermined. Five prosecutors went there to try to determine the causes of the tragedy. The fire services, who were alerted around 7 p.m., said they extinguished the fire in 45 minutes but failed to avoid victims.

“The fire was huge because as the hospital is modular, there was plastic”, the deputy commander of the Tetovo fire brigade, Saso Trajcevski, testified on local television. “We took out the victims while we put out the flames”. Several wounded were transported to hospitals in the capital.

“The fight for life is still going on and all services sacrifice themselves and save people”said Zoran Zaev, expressing his “Deep condolences to the families and those close to the deceased” as well as a “Rapid convalescence” to the injured.

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Increasing contaminations

Construction of the modular unit dedicated to Covid patients began in December in the hospital center of Tetovo, a town of about 52,000 inhabitants, many of whom are members of the Albanian minority in North Macedonia.

The country of two million inhabitants with fragile health services has for some time recorded an increase in the number of contaminations due to the Delta variant and the lifting of restrictions during the summer. Hospitals are overwhelmed in some places, especially where vaccination rates are low and the country deplores around 30 deaths every day. In total, the pandemic has killed more than 6,100 people.

Other countries have been bereaved by explosions followed by fires in Covid-19 hospitals. In Iraq, dozens of people were killed in fires that followed the explosion of oxygen cylinders in April and July.

The World with AFP

www.lemonde.fr

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