“Tragedy” in North Macedonia where the fire of a Covid unit kills at least 14

At least fourteen people were killed Wednesday evening in North Macedonia in a virulent fire following an explosion in a Covid-19 unit, the authorities of the small state of the Balkans announced, deploring “the lives lost”.

“A huge tragedy” has occurred in the Covid-19 center of 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,” the head of government added on Facebook.

The fire occurred in the Covid-19 unit of the Tetovo hospital center as the Former Yugoslav Republic celebrated the 30th 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.

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 walked worriedly in front of charred containers while stretcher bearers came and went next to rescue vehicles, noted an AFP journalist.

The explosion occurred for reasons as yet undetermined. Five prosecutors went there to try to determine the causes of the tragedy.

The fire department, which was alerted around 19:00 GMT, said they put out the fire in 45 minutes but failed to avoid victims.


“The fire was huge because since the hospital is modular, there was plastic,” Tetovo Deputy Fire Commander Saso Trajcevski told 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 are sacrificing themselves and saving people,” Zoran Zaev said, expressing “deep condolences to the families and those close to the deceased” as well as a “speedy recovery” to the injured.

Construction work on 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, where the average salary is 460 euros, 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.


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