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Fire In Baghdad Maternity Ward Kills At Least 12 Newborns

A fire at a maternity ward in Baghdad killed at least 12 infants overnight.

The director of the Yarmouk hospital told reporters the fire appeared to be caused by electrical wiring, The Associated Press reports.

At least some of the newborns who were killed were premature babies, according to Reuters and the AP.

Saad Hatem Ahmed, the hospital director, tells the AP that 29 women and eight infants were rescued from the fire and transferred to another hospital.

The New York Times reports that several of the evacuated women were waiting for cesarean sections at the state-supported hospital.

One mother, who had given birth by C-section on Tuesday, told the Times she heard screaming that night, when the fire began.

"The power was cut off, and then the doors got locked on us, and there was no man in the newborn section, and we could not save any babies," Mariam Thijeel said.

On Wednesday, masked forensics teams searched through the rubble as grieving fathers and relatives gathered at the scene of the fire, The Associated Press reports:

"One father, 30-year-old Hussein Omar, a construction worker, said he lost twins in the blaze, a baby boy and a girl born last week. The hospital told him to go look for them at another Baghdad hospital where some of the patients were moved to during the fire.

"He said he looked and couldn't find them anywhere so he came back to Yarmouk. The hospital staff then told him to go look at the morgue.

" 'I only found charred pieces of flesh,' Omar said, crying. 'I want my baby boy and girl back. The government must give them back to me.'

"Nearby, Shaima Hassan stood dazed and trembling in shock after losing her two-day-old son. The 36-year old had spent more than a year visiting hospitals in and outside Iraq trying to conceive.

" 'I waited for ages to have this baby and when I finally had him, it took only a second to lose him,' she said, holding a bunch of blackened documents with her hands, covered with burns."

Eshrak Ahmed Jaasar, 41, told the AP her 4-day-old nephew was missing, while his mother had been evacuated to another hospital. Like Omar, she blamed the government.

"We pay the hospital employees thousands of Iraqi dinars to allow us in to get our loved ones basic food and milk, which they cannot provide," she told the wire service. "It's a corrupt government that doesn't care about its citizens and lets this happen."

Electrical fires are common in Iraq because of "shoddy maintenance and poor wiring," the AP writes, while substandard building practices and a lack of fire escapes make such fires more dangerous.

And The New York Timesnotes that hospital funding has been cut in Iraq, due to "the cost of the government's war against the Islamic State and a drop in the price of oil."

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Camila Domonoske
Camila Flamiano Domonoske covers cars, energy and the future of mobility for NPR's Business Desk.
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