Coronavirus: Ventilator fire blamed for Russia Covid-19 deaths

A fire at a St. Petersburg hospital has killed five coronavirus patients in an intensive care unit.

Apparently, the fire was started by a short-circuit in a ventilator, Russian news agencies reported.

The fire was quickly quenched and 150 people were evacuated from the hospital, the country’s emergency ministry said. It is not clear how many people have been injured.

All victims at St George Hospital had been on ventilators.

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How it Happened

“The ventilators are working to their limits. Preliminary indications are that it was overloaded and caught fire, and that was the cause,” a source at St Petersburg emergencies department told the Interfax news agency.

Russia’s NTV news website reports that the fire did not spread beyond one small Covid-19 ward on the sixth floor.

It quotes doctors as saying a short-circuit caused a ventilator “literally to explode” because of the oxygen concentration, and the ward filled with smoke, which suffocated the patients.

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There have been persistent reports of a shortage of ventilators in Russia, especially in the provinces; as President Vladimir Putin himself acknowledged last month.

Production has increased rapidly. However, research by the Reuters news agency found that outside Moscow many ventilators are old – made in the 1990s.

Currently, Russia has the second-highest number of confirmed infections worldwide after the United States. On Tuesday, it reported another 10,899 infections in the past 24 hours, bringing the total to more than 232,000.

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The capital, Moscow, is the worst-affected area and has reported more than 5,000 new cases in the past 24 hours.