82 killed in Baghdad COVID-19 hospital fire: Interior ministry
A fire sparked by an oxygen tank explosion killed at least 82 people and injured 110 at a hospital in Baghdad that had been equipped to house COVID-19 patients, an Interior Ministry spokesman said on Sunday.
“We urgently need to review safety measures at all hospitals to prevent such a painful incident from happening in future,” spokesman Khalid al-Muhanna told state television, announcing the toll.
The fire erupted on Saturday at the Ibn Khatib hospital in the Diyala Bridge area.
Ali Bayati, a member of Iraq’s semi-official High Commission for Human Rights, had said earlier a final death toll had not yet been officially announced but it could be between 30 to 45.
Patients’ relatives scrambled during the blaze to save their loved ones.
A man who had been visiting his brother described people jumping out of windows to escape.
“The fire spread, like fuel … I took my brother out to the street, next to the checkpoint. Then I came (back) and went up from there. To the last floor, that did not burn. I found a girl suffocating, about 19 years old, she was suffocating, she was about to die,” said Ahmed Zaki.
“I took her on my shoulders and I ran down. People were jumping… Doctors fell on the cars. Everyone was jumping. And I kept going up from there, got people and come down again,” Zaki said.
Patients were moved to other hospitals, medical sources said. But several families were still at the hospital hours after the fire had been extinguished, after failing to find them elsewhere.
Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi ordered an investigation.
“Such an incident is evidence of negligence and therefore I directed that an investigation be launched immediately and for the hospital’s manager and the heads of security and maintenance to be detained along with all those concerned until we identify those negligent and hold them accountable,” he said in a statement.
Iraq’s healthcare system, ruined by decades of sanctions, war and neglect, has been stretched during the coronavirus crisis. The country has recorded a total of 102,5288 infections, including 15,217 deaths, the health ministry said on Saturday.
Security has improved in recent years but Iraq still suffers from political violence, including militia rocket attacks on foreign forces and a low-level Islamic State insurgency.
Accidents due to neglect and wrecked infrastructure have compounded the woes of ordinary Iraqis.
In 2019, at least 90 people died when an overloaded ferry carrying families on an outing sank in the Tigris river in the northern city of Mosul.
North Korea tests new nuclear-capable underwater drone
North Korea has tested a new nuclear-capable underwater attack drone, state media reported on Friday, as leader Kim Jong Un warned joint military drills by South Korea and the U.S. should stop, Reuters reported.
During the test, the new North Korean drone cruised underwater at a depth of 80 to 150 metres (260-500 feet) for over 59 hours and detonated a non-nuclear payload in waters off its east coast on Thursday, North Korean state news agency KCNA said.
Analysts say North Korea is showing off its increasingly diverse nuclear threats to Washington and Seoul, though they are sceptical whether the underwater vehicle is ready for deployment.
North Korea intends to signal “to the United States and South Korea that in a war, the potential vectors of nuclear weapons delivery that the allies would have to worry about and target would be vast,” said Ankit Panda, senior fellow at the U.S.-based Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
“There would be silos, railcars, submarines and road mobile missile launchers. And now they’re adding this underwater torpedo to the mix,” he said.
According to Reuters on Monday, the isolated country flew a short-range missile from a buried silo, a departure from usual basing methods.
Dubbed “Haeil”, or tsunami, the new drone system is intended to make sneak attacks in enemy waters and destroy naval strike groups and major operational ports by creating a large radioactive wave through an underwater explosion, the KCNA said.
“This nuclear underwater attack drone can be deployed at any coast and port or towed by a surface ship for operation,” the news agency said, adding that Kim oversaw the test.
A South Korean military official said they were analysing North Korea’s claims. A U.S. official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said there was no indication of a nuclear test.
It is unclear whether North Korea has fully developed miniaturised nuclear warheads needed to fit on its smaller weapons.
Analysts say perfecting such warheads would most likely be a key goal if the North resumes nuclear testing, read the report.
A photo released by state media showed Kim smiling next to a large torpedo-shaped object, but did not identify it as the new drone. Other photos showed tracks of the object’s underwater trajectory, and blasts visible on the sea surface.
Panda said the weapon’s operational concept was similar to Russia’s Poseidon nuclear torpedoes, a new category of retaliatory weapon meant to create destructive, radioactive blasts in coastal areas.
On Friday South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol said he would make sure North Korea paid for its “reckless provocations”, during a speech to commemorate service members who died in clashes with North Korea in western waters, including a 2010 sinking of a navy ship that South Korea said was struck by a North Korean torpedo.
North Korea also said it had fired cruise missiles on Wednesday to practice carrying out tactical nuclear attacks, confirming earlier reports from the South Korean military, Reuters reported.
The cruise missiles were tipped with a “test warhead simulating a nuclear warhead,” and flew 1,500-1,800 km (930-1,120 miles), according to KCNA.
The latest tests took place as South Korean and U.S. troops launched their largest amphibious landing drills in years, involving a U.S. amphibious assault ship, on Monday.
North Korea said military exercises by the United States and South Korea require its forces to “gird themselves for an all-out war and bolster up its nuclear force both in quality and quantity on a priority basis”.
Pyongyang has long bristled at exercises conducted by South Korean and U.S. forces, saying they are preparation for an invasion of the North.
South Korea and the U.S. say the exercises are purely defensive and have criticised the North’s tests as destabilising and in breach of U.N. sanctions.
The allies concluded 11 days of their regular springtime exercises, called Freedom Shield 23, on Thursday, but have other field training exercises continuing.
North Korean leader Kim expressed “his will to make the U.S. imperialists and the South Korean puppet regime plunge into despair for their choice,” KCNA said, adding that he warned the enemies that they should stop reckless anti-North Korea war drills.
The director of the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency said on Wednesday North Korean leader Kim does not appear poised to carry out a nuclear test during U.S.-South Korea military exercises, but the United States is staying vigilant.
China says US warship entered South China Sea illegally
China’s military said on Thursday it had monitored and driven away a U.S. destroyer that illegally entered waters around the Paracel Islands in the South China Sea, Reuters reported.
In a statement, the military said that the guided-missile destroyer USS Milius intruded into China’s territorial waters, undermining peace and stability in the busy waterway.
“The theater forces will maintain a high state of alert at all times and take all necessary measures to resolutely safeguard national sovereignty and security and peace and stability in the South China Sea,” said Tian Junli, a spokesman for China’s Southern Theatre Command.
The U.S. Navy on Thursday disputed the Chinese military statement, saying the destroyer is conducting “routine operations” in the South China Sea and was not expelled.
“The United States will continue to fly, sail, and operate wherever international law allows,” a statement from the U.S. Navy 7th Fleet said.
Tension between the United States and China has been growing in the area.
The United States has been shoring up alliances in the Asia-Pacific seeking to counter China’s assertiveness in the South China Sea and the Taiwan Strait, as Beijing seeks to advance its territorial claims.
Massive ship tips over, injuring 25 people
A large ship tipped over while dry-docked in Scotland, injuring 25 people on Wednesday, emergency workers said.
Police and emergency services were called to the Imperial Dock in Edinburgh after receiving reports that a ship had become dislodged from its holding, Associated Press reported.
The Scottish Ambulance Service said 15 people were taken to the hospital, while 10 others were treated and discharged at the scene. Local police urged the public to avoid the area to allow access for emergency services.
Photos from the scene showed the ship leaning to the side at a 45-degree angle. Adam McVey, a local official, tweeted that it became dislodged due to strong winds.
The 76-meter long vessel, named the Petrel, was a research vessel previously bought and outfitted by the late Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen. The Petrel is equipped with deep-sea exploration technology and has led several high-profile missions to locate historic shipwrecks, including the discovery of the USS Indianapolis in 2017 in the Philippine Sea.
The BBC reported the ship had been moored since 2020 due to challenges brought by the COVID-19 pandemic.
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