BUCHAREST, Romania (AP) — A fire at a COVID-19 hospital in Romania killed two people Thursday, authorities said. It was the fourth fatal fire at a Romanian COVID-19 hospital during the pandemic.
The blaze broke out in the infectious disease wing of the hospital in the city of Ploiesti as 21 patients were receiving care, authorities said. Officials identified the two victims as men in their 70s. A nurse who reportedly suffered serious burns was transferred to a hospital in Romania’s capital of Bucharest.
The cause of the fire, which was quickly extinguished, was not yet known, but an investigation was underway.
Interim Prime Minister Florin Citu sent his condolences Thursday morning to the families of the fire victims and said “such tragedies must not be repeated.”
“I always asked that the hospitals be prepared for wave four,” Citu said during a news conference. “We are facing an overload of the medical system due to wave four, and everyone involved must ensure that all measures are taken for the safety of patients.”
In recent weeks, Romania’s health care system has grappled with a record number of virus infections and deaths. Romania is the European Union’s second-least vaccinated nation, with just 40% of adults fully inoculated against the coronavirus.
More than 1,800 COVID-19 patients in Romania are currently receiving intensive care, and hundreds of people with the disease have died every day for the last month.
The Ploiesti hospital fire follows a string of deadly fires that have afflicted Romania’s hospitals during the pandemic. On Oct. 1, a fire tore through a COVID-19 hospital in the Romanian port city of Constanta, killing at least seven people.
Ten people died in November 2020 after a fire engulfed an intensive care unit for COVID-19 patients in the northern Romanian town of Piatra Neamt. Another blaze in January engulfed a ward at Bucharest’s Matei Bals hospital, killing five people.
After the Constanta fire last month, President Klaus Iohannis said Romania had “failed in its fundamental mission to protect its citizens.”