The modular building met all accident protection certifications, officials say.
VIDEO: Fire Kills At Least 14 People In Temporary COVID Clinic In North Macedonia
At least 14 people have been killed in a fire at a temporary building set up to treat COVID patients in North Macedonia, officials said.
On Wednesday night “in the Tetovo COVID center, a huge tragedy happened in which, due to explosion and fire, there are 10 victims, and this number may increase. The fire and medical services reacted immediately, the fire was extinguished, and an action of the health services is underway to save every endangered life,” the government posted in a statement on social media.
Hours after the fire started at around 9 p.m., the number of victims was updated. Video shows the building engulfed in flames. The cause is still unknown.
Officials said DNA analysis will be needed to identify some victims of the fire. Authorities said they have identified most of the 14 victims and ordered autopsies.
Officials confirmed there were 26 people in the center; 12 were relocated to a nearby hospital.
Oxygen cylinders used to treat coronavirus patients reportedly exploded during the fire, officials said.
The modular unit was built last year during the pandemic, but it only started accepting patients in April after a number of delays.
The Ministry of Health said all 19 modular COVID treatment centers in the country, including the one in Tetovo, were built to the highest medical and safety standards. The ministry said all met the required technical specifications.
The COVID center in Tetovo “has all the necessary certificates for accident protection,” the government said in a recent report.
The North Macedonia Cabinet was scheduled to meet in emergency session on Thursday to discuss the tragedy. The government accepted an offer of help from neighboring countries for experts to help investigate the fire. The nation’s public prosecutor and members of the Ministry of Interior began their investigations Wednesday night.
Tetovo, with a population of around 50,000, has reported 1,456 active cases of COVID-19.
Prime Minister Zoran Zaev is expected to receive a detailed report before making further announcements. He sent his condolences to the victims’ families on social media, and the government has declared three days of mourning throughout the country.
The nation of 2 million people, with a fragile health system being stretched to its limits, is experiencing delays in the rollout of its vaccine program.
As of Sept. 9, 6,153 people have died of COVID-19 infection in the Balkan country, according to Johns Hopkins University in Maryland.
Edited by Judith Isacoff and Fern Siegel