Five Covid-19 patients die in Romania hospital fire

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Bucharest (AFP)

A fire broke out early Friday in Romania's main hospital for coronavirus patients, killing five of them in the second such incident in three months.

Emergency responders found three dead patients at the Matei Bals hospital in the capital Bucharest, and could not resuscitate a fourth, Raed Arafat, secretary at the interior ministry told reporters.

The body of a fifth victim was later found in one of the bathrooms, Interior Minister Lucian added in an update.

The fire broke out on the ground floor around 5:00am (0300 GMT), affecting four wards and leading to the evacuation and transfer of 102 patients, said Orlando Schiopu, head of the inspectorate for emergency situations.

In November, a fire in an intensive care unit of a hospital in the northeastern town of Piatra Neamt killed 15 people being treated for Covid-19.

In a country marked by crumbling infrastructure and a culture of makeshift repairs, the November tragedy sparked safety warnings and an investigation that is yet to be concluded.

"The reality is that the majority of our hospitals are the result of chronic underfinancing, non-transparent acquisitions and a long string of improvisations," Health Minister Vlad Voiculescu said in a post on Facebook on Friday.

Romania has so far registered 18,105 Covid deaths, 721,513 cases and 666,001 recoveries.