Eleven newborn babies have died in a hospital fire attributed to an electrical short circuit in the western Senegal town of Tivaouane, authorities said on Thursday.
In the latest in a string of hospital deaths that have exposed weaknesses in the national healthcare system, President Macky Sall announced the tragedy on Twitter and declared three days of national mourning.
“To their mothers and families, I express my deepest sympathy,” he tweeted.
“Where is Mohamed?” asked one of the distraught mothers outside the Mame Abdou Aziz Sy Dabakh hospital in Tivaouane, a town of 40,000 people.
The city’s mayor, Demba Diop, said the fire was caused by a short circuit and spread very quickly.
“There was a noise and an explosion, which lasted a maximum of three minutes,” he said outside the hospital entrance.
The mayor said the air conditioning accelerated the flames and added that the two nurses passed out but were revived.
Health Minister Abdoulaye Diouf Sarr has also been quoted in the media as blaming a power outage.
The maternity ward has been equipped to take care of 13 babies.
World Health Organization chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus tweeted that he was “beyond heartbroken by this tragic news.
Health Minister Sarr, who was in Geneva to attend a meeting with the WHO, said an investigation was underway.
In the town of Linguère, in the north of the country, at the end of April, a fire broke out in 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.
Wednesday’s accident came more than a month after the nation mourned the death of a pregnant woman who waited in vain for a C-section.
She died on April 1, 20 hours after her arrival.
Three midwives on duty the evening of Sokhna’s death were given a six-month suspended prison sentence by the Louga High Court on May 11 for “failure to assist a person in danger” in connection with his case. .
With the new tragedy, Amnesty “urges the government to set up an independent commission of inquiry to determine the responsibilities and punish the culprits, whatever their level in the state apparatus”, he tweeted.
“No more burnt babies in a public hospital…unacceptable @MackySall,” he tweeted.
Originally published as Eleven babies die in Senegal hospital fire