At least 44 killed in Iraq coronavirus hospital fire

Dozens have been killed after a fire broke out at a coronavirus hospital in Iraq on Monday.

That's according to health officials and police, who said the fire was likely caused by an oxygen tank explosion.

The incident occurred in the southern city of Nassiriya.

Health officials there said the fire had been brought under control.

But they also said thick smoke was making it difficult to maneuver in the building.

One health worker told Reuters that many patients were trapped in the coronavirus ward, with rescue crews struggling to reach them.

The office of Iraq's Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi said in a statement, he was holding urgent meetings with senior ministers, and has ordered the suspension and arrest of health and civil defense managers in the city.

The statement said that also included the hospital manager.

Iraq - which has suffered from years of war and sanctions - frequently sees accidents due to under-investment, corruption and wrecked infrastructure.

Monday's fire was a blow to its healthcare system, already struggling with an influx of patients and short supplies in the midst of the global health crisis.

More than 1.4 million people are infected there with a death toll of more than 17,000.

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