By AFP

A fire in a Romanian hospital on Friday has left nine coronavirus patients dead, rescue services said, in the latest blaze in the EU member known for its dilapidated infrastructure. 

Flames engulfed the intensive care unit at a hospital in Constanta on the shore of the Black Sea with nine people confirmed dead, rescue services said in a statement.

Some 100 people had to be evacuated, services spokesman Razvan Parconie told AFP.

The cause of the fire is not yet known, Health Minister Attila Cseke said, adding that an investigation had been opened.

Gathered in front of the hospital, victims’ relatives accused the authorities of “incompetence”.

“History is repeating itself. Nothing has been done to improve conditions in hospitals,” a woman, who said her mother was killed in the fire, told local television stations.

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Hospital director Stela Halichidis insisted several shortcomings found during January inspections of electrical and heating installations had been corrected. 

The tragedy comes at a time as a surge in daily infections is hitting an all-time record with 12,000 new cases within 24 hours, and the country is in dire need of intensive care beds.

Silviu Cosa, the head of the prefecture where the hospital is located, said 10 Covid-19 patients were being treated in the hospital’s ICU unit when the fire broke out.

Experts estimate less than a third of Romania’s 670 hospitals meet fire standards.

Earlier this year, in January, five patients died in a fire at a Bucharest hospital, two months after another blaze killed 15 patients at a hospital in Piatra Neamt in the north east.

In April, three Covid-19 patients also died in a mobile intensive care unit in Bucharest after a malfunction in the oxygen supply system.

After these incidents, authorities announced safety checks in the country’s intensive care units. 

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