At least 11 people were confirmed dead after fire erupted in a hospital in the Brazilian city of Rio de Janeiro, and forcing medical staff and desperate relatives to rescue patients from smoke-filled wards.
The fire which started on Thursday evening was thought to have been caused by a short circuit in a generator, though the city mayor said sabotage could not be ruled out.
Firefighters battled the blaze at the private Badim hospital, near Rio’s iconic Maracana World Cup football stadium, for several hours before extinguishing it.
Hospital director Fabio Santoro said Friday that 11 deaths had been confirmed and searches were still underway for one patient who had been reported missing.
Emergency personnel searched through the burned-out building until the early hours of Friday to recover bodies.
The hospital said there had been 103 patients in the building when the fire broke out and that “more than 100 doctors were mobilized to bring help to the victims.” Seventy-seven of them had been moved to other hospitals while 14 had been cleared to return to their homes.
During the evacuation, patients on gurneys and stretchers were carried into surrounding streets as ambulances struggled through crowds of curious onlookers to transport patients to other medical facilities.
“The doctor arrived in the room and told us that there was fire and that we had to evacuate as quickly as possible,” 58-year-old Teresa Dias, who was visiting her father, told AFP.
“They put him in a wheelchair and tied him up to prevent him from falling out. There were a lot of other sick people on stretchers on the stairs.”
Staff wheeled medical equipment outside, and the most seriously ill patients were taken at first to a nearby children’s nursery.
Sheets tied together were seen hanging from hospital windows.