President Macky Sall tweeted that the fire broke out in the maternity ward at Mame Abdou Aziz Sy Dabakh Hospital in Tivaouane, Senegal. According to Senegalese politicians, initial reports suggest the fire was caused by a short circuit.
Mayor Demba Diop Sy said three babies were rescued from the fire. Sy told local media the fire spread rapidly and emergency services rushed to the scene.
The hospital was recently inaugurated, according to local media reports cited by media. “My deepest condolences to their mothers and their families,” President Sall tweeted.
“I heard about the fire last night, but I didn’t tell my daughter. I waited until morning to tell her,” said Ndeye Absa Gueye, who later learned her grandson was also among the dead.
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“This situation is very unfortunate and very painful,” said Health Minister Abdoulaye Diouf Sarr, who was in Geneva for a World Health Organization meeting.
He said that an investigation was underway and that he would cut his trip short and return to Senegal as soon as possible. The incident sparked outrage in the country’s medical establishment on social media.
Opposition MP Mamadou Lamin Diallo criticized the government on Twitter: “More babies are being shot in government hospitals…This is unacceptable.”
Seydi Gassama said in a tweet that the human rights group Amnesty International called on the government to create an independent commission of inquiry to determine responsibility and punish the perpetrators, regardless of their position in the government.
Amnesty International has called for all neonatal wards in Senegal to be inspected, following a similar incident last year in the northern town of Lingure.
Four newborns have died in a fire in the hospital’s maternity ward. At that time, the mayor said that the air conditioning in the maternity ward was not working.
Wednesday’s tragedy follows nationwide protests over the death of the woman she gave birth to, Astou Sokhna, who died as she begged for a caesarean section during a 20-hour labour. Her unborn child by her also died.