Fire in Greek COVID-19 hospital ward kills 1 patient

THESSALONIKI, Greece (AP) — A fire Wednesday in the COVID-19 ward of a hospital in the northern Greek city of Thessaloniki, left one patient dead and two seriously injured, firefighters said.

The fire department said it evacuated 34 patients from the COVID-19 ward of the Papanikolaou hospital. The blaze was quickly extinguished.

Four of the uninjured patients who were evacuated had already been in serious condition due to the coronavirus, and were under increased monitoring, authorities said. The body of one patient was found on the second floor, the fire department said.

Several fatal fires in COVID-19 hospital wards in several countries have been linked to the large quantities of oxygen with which patients are linked up — and which although not flammable causes a fire to burn much faster and more intensely.

Health Minister Thanos Plevris said the cause of the blaze was not immediately clear. Video footage from the site showed thick black smoke billowing out of two windows on a lower floor of the facility and firefighters clambering up to the windows.

“The danger was from the oxygen supply to the patients. That could have made the situation much worse,” Plevris told reporters outside the hospital after the fire was put out.

“The supply was cut off quickly and the response from the fire department was swift,” he added.

He said other wards on the hospital had not been affected and COVID-19 patients had been moved to other parts of the building and were put back on oxygen.

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