At least 22 Covid-19 patients on ventilator at a government hospital in the western Indian state of Maharashtra died on Wednesday after their oxygen supply ran out following leakage of the life-supporting gas from a tanker, officials said.
The tanker was brought to Zakir Hussain Municipal Hospital in the state's Nashik district to replenish the oxygen cylinders at the medical facility for continuous supply to the 150-plus Covid-19 patients on life support.
"As per current information, 22 people have died due to interrupted supply of oxygen at Zakir Hussain Municipal Hospital in Nashik," district collector Suraj Mandhare told the media.
Local TV channels aired footage of oxygen leaking from the tanker stationed outside the hospital and firefighters trying their best to stop the leak by spraying water.
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Maharashtra's Health Minister Rajesh Tope said that the interrupted supply of oxygen could be linked to the deaths of the patients in the hospital and promised action against any negligence on part of the authorities concerned following a "free and fair probe".
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi took to social media to offer his condolences to the families of the deceased. "The tragedy at a hospital in Nashik because of oxygen tank leakage is heart-wrenching. Anguished by the loss of lives due to it," he tweeted.
State Minister and son of Maharashtra Chief Minister Udhav Thackeray's son Aaditya also called the accident "extremely unfortunate". We all share in the grief of all these families. This unfortunate incident will be thoroughly investigated," he tweeted.
The leakage of the life-supporting gas comes at a time when several Indian states are facing an acute shortage of oxygen cylinders. UNB also reported on Tuesday that several hospitals in the national capital were left with just a few hours of oxygen.
Last week, India became the second worst-affected country in the world in terms of Covid cases. On Tuesday, India reported as many as 259,170 new cases and 1,761 fatalities in 24 hours, the highest daily death toll since the pandemic broke out in 2020.
India's Covid tally and death toll currently stand at 1,53,21,089 and 1,80,530, respectively, according to the country's Health Ministry.