At least 17 patients died and around 12 others injured in a fire that broke out at the Sum Hospital in Bhubaneswar on Monday evening, in one of the worst such incidents involving a medical facility.
The blaze is suspected to have been triggered by an electric short circuit in the dialysis ward on the first floor of the private hospital which spread to the nearby Intensive Care Unit.
"So far we have received some 'brought dead' people at the Capital Hospital. However, I cannot exactly say the number of persons who have died in the incident," Health Secretary Arati Ahuja said.
However, the Capital Hospital Superintendent Binod Kumar Mishra said, "We have received nine dead bodies, while five others are in very critical condition. The toll may increase."
Meanwhile, Amri Hospital (Bhubaneswar) unit head Dr Salil Kumar Mohanty said, "A total of 37 patients were received at our casualty ward. Our doctors have declared eight persons as brought dead."
"Most of the victims were in the first floor ICU of the ill-fated Sum Hospital," said a doctor at the Capital Hospital.
The fire, which started from the dialysis ward on the first floor, quickly spread to other areas including the ICU on the same floor of the four-storeyed hospital building.
The commissionerate of police and fire brigade personnel along with volunteers and hospital staff launched a massive rescue operation as more than 500 indoor patients were trapped in the building, hospital officials said.
At least seven fire tenders were pressed into service to control the blaze and over a dozen ambulances deployed to shift the critical patients to other hospitals.
Many patients were rescued by breaking window panes, an eyewitness said.
In 2011, a major blaze had engulfed AMRI Hospital in Kolkata, killing 89 people, including 85 patients.
Modi, Nadda condole
Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressed deep anguish over the death of people in the fire.
"Deeply anguished by the loss of lives in the hospital fire in Odisha. The tragedy is mind-numbing. My thoughts are with bereaved families," he tweeted.
He said he spoke to Union Health Minister J.P. Nadda and asked him to facilitate transfer of all the injured to All India Institute of Medical Sciences in Bhubaneswar. "Hope the injured recover quickly," Modi said.
Nadda tweeted: "Deeply saddened by the fire incident in Institute of Medical Sciences and SUM Hospital, Bhubaneswar. My condolences rest with the bereaved families."