At least 11 prematurely born babies have been killed in a fire at a maternity hospital in the Iraqi capital Baghdad, authorities have said.
Seven other children and 29 women were rescued after the blaze broke out early Wednesday in the Yarmouk maternity hospital in the west of the capital. They were transferred to to a nearby hospital, the Iraqi health ministry said in a statement.
Baghdad authorities quickly sealed off the hospital and were barring then media from the site.
While the cause of the fire is unknown, the health ministry has said it may have been due to an electrical fault.
Electrical fires are common in the Iraqi capital and elsewhere across the country because of shoddy maintenance and poor wiring.
A lack of fire escapes also contributes to the danger whenever a fire breaks out. There is also widespread failure by construction companies and those providing building material to follow accepted standards.
The incident is likely to intensify public accusations of state corruption and mismanagement.
Pictures posted on social media showed the hospital in a state of neglect, with cockroaches crawling out from between broken tiles, dustbins overflowing with rubbish, dirty toilets and patients lying on stretchers in the courtyard.
The relative of a patient who died recently in the hospital from meningitis told Reuters news agency he saw cockroaches crawling along the tube of an oxygen mask.
“It was so dirty,” he said. “We had to bring our own bed sheets.”
13 years after the US-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein, the oil-rich country still suffers a shortage of electricity, water, schools and hospitals.
Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has been trying for more than two years to tackle corruption in Iraq, which ranks 161 out of 168 on Transparency International’s Corruption Index, but has faced due to resistance from much of the political elite.