At least 11 newborns were killed after a fire tore through a neonatal unit of a regional hospital in the West African nation of Senegal, the country’s president, Macky Sall, said on Thursday on Twitter.
Mr. Sall, who was on a state visit to Angola, said the blaze had broken out at Abdou Aziz Sy Dabakh Hospital in the city of Tivaouane, which is about 50 miles northeast of Dakar, the capital.
“To their mothers and their families, I express my deepest sympathy,” Mr. Sall said. He gave no further details.
Senegal’s health minister, Abdoulaye Diouf Sarr, who was in Geneva for the World Health Assembly, posted on Twitter, “We learned with sorrow of the deadly fire in the neonatology department of the Mame A. A. Sy Dabakh hospital in Tivaouane.” He said that he had dispatched a delegation to the site of the blaze and was cutting short his trip to immediately return to Dakar.
He later told the television station TFM that “according to a preliminary investigation, a short circuit triggered the fire.” The news site Senegal7 also reported that the fire had broken out around 8 p.m. on Wednesday.
The city’s mayor told reporters that the fire spread rapidly but three babies had been rescued, according to the BBC.
Cheikh Bamba Dièye, minister of regional planning and local government, suggested on Twitter that deeper scrutiny of the state of the country’s hospitals was in order.
“I am appalled by the horrific and unacceptable death of 11 newborn babies in Tivaouane,” he wrote. “The recurrence of tragedies in our hospitals reminds us of the obligation to thoroughly review the quality of service in our hospitals.”
Senegal’s hospital system was already facing public scrutiny over a case in which a woman and her fetus died in April in the northern town of Louga after her requests for a cesarean section were ignored, according to news reports. In response, members of a national midwives’ association went on strike, the hospital’s director was dismissed, and six midwives were charged with failing to assist a person in danger, the BBC reported. Three were acquitted this month, and the others received suspended six-month sentences.
There have been a number of devastating fires in Senegal in recent years. In April 2021, four newborn babies died after a fire broke out at a hospital in the northern town of Linguère, which the mayor said had most likely been caused by the electrical malfunction of an air-conditioning unit in the maternity ward. In 2013, at least nine children died in a house blaze in the Medina neighborhood of Dakar, Senegal’s state news agency reported at the time. Seven of the children were Koranic students who took classes from a holy man who employed them as beggars.
In 2017, a fire killed at least 22 people and injured more than 100 during an Islamic festival in the village of Médina Gounas, in the eastern part of the country. In 2010, six people were killed and several injured after a blaze broke out at the same spiritual retreat.
Mike Ives and Elian Peltier contributed reporting.