Covid-19 patients killed by exploding oxygen cylinder in Turkey

 Nine killed when ‘high pressure oxygen device’ exploded at Sanko University hospital in Gaziantep

Police and security personnel stand guard outside the Sanko University hospital in Gaziantep after the incident.
Police and security personnel stand guard outside the Sanko University hospital in Gaziantep after the incident. Photograph: Reuters
Asssociated Presss in Ankara

Nine people have died after an oxygen cylinder exploded at an intensive care unit treating Covid-19 patients in Turkey, the health minister said.

The state-run Anadolu news agency said the fire took place at the private Sanko University hospital in Gaziantep, 530 miles (850 km) south-east of Istanbul. It cited a hospital statement identifying the victims as being between 56 and 85. The fire was quickly brought under control.

The statement said 14 intensive-care patients had been transferred to other hospitals. An investigation is under way.

The health minister, Fahrettin Koca, tweeted that nine people had been killed in the fire, raising the earlier estimate of eight dead by the hospital and the Gaziantep governor’s office. There was no explanation for the discrepancy.

The governor’s office said 19 patients had been in the unit when a high-pressure oxygen device exploded at 4.45am (1.45GMT). Other than the fatalities, no others were injured in the fire, it said.

Intensive care units across Turkey currently have 74% bed occupancy rate as a result of the coronavirus outbreak, according to government figures, although medical associations say the figure is higher and that their hospitals are overrun with Covid-19 patients.

Turkey’s health ministry reported 26,410 new coronavirus cases on Friday, bringing the country’s total since March to 1.98 million. The figure includes asymptomatic cases, which Ankara did not report in the four months up to late November, prompting criticism that the government was trying to hide the extent of the country’s outbreak.

Turkey also reported a record daily high of 246 Covid-19 related deaths on Friday, taking its total to 17,610.

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