Wed, Oct

Fire kills 11 premature babies in Iraq

The Iraqi health ministry said the fire was probably started by an electrical fault

At least 11 premature babies have been killed in a fire at a hospital in the Iraqi capital, Baghdad, officials say.

It took three hours to put out the blaze, which broke out late on Tuesday inside the maternity unit at the Yarmouk Hospital, in the city's west.

Seven other children and 29 women had to be moved to nearby hospitals. Nineteen are believed to have been treated for burns or smoke inhalation.

The health ministry said the fire was probably caused by an electrical fault.

Electrical fires are common in Iraq because of shoddy maintenance and poor wiring, and a lack of fire escapes often adds to the danger.

'Government doesn't care'

Angry relatives gathered outside the hospital on Wednesday morning. Many held the government responsible for the fire.

Hussein Omar, a 30-year-old builder, told the Associated Press feared that he had lost twins born last week.

Hospital officials had told him to look for them at the other hospitals in Baghdad, he said. But he could not find them and was then told to go to the hospital mortuary.

"I only found charred pieces of flesh," Mr Omar said. "I want my baby boy and girl back. The government must give them back to me."

Eshrak Ahmed Jaasar, 41, was unable to find her four-day-old nephew.

"I came early this morning to see my nephew and his mother, but they told me about the fire," she told AP. "My nephew is still missing and his mother was moved to another hospital ward."

Ms Jaasar added: "We pay the hospital employees thousands of Iraqi dinars to allow us in to get our loved ones basic food and milk, which they cannot provide."

"It's a corrupt government that doesn't care about its citizens and lets this happen."

Photos purportedly taken inside the Yarmouk Hospital showed cockroaches crawling out from between broken tiles, bins overflowing with rubbish, dirty toilets, and patients lying on stretchers in a courtyard, the Reuters news agency reports.