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Family members breathe sigh of relief as patients brought to safety

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NEW DELHI, Aug 7 (PTI): Sixteen-year-old Naznin was worried for the safety of her mother, who was unconscious after being administered anaesthesia for an endoscopy procedure at AIIMS, when a fire broke out in the room on Monday.

As dense smoke engulfed the second floor of the old OPD building, Naznin, other patients and family members waiting there were quickly evacuated. In the rush, all she could do was worry about her mother’s safety.

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“I went to AIIMS with my mother as she was to undergo a procedure. She was already given anaesthesia and was on the table while I waited outside the room when the fire broke out,” Naznin — from Nangloi in Delhi — told PTI.

Describing the chaos that ensued, Naznin said, “Nothing was visible as dense smoke filled the area. I was clueless about my mother as she was unconscious till I saw her being brought outside on a stretcher after 15-20 minutes.”

Panic gripped the patients, their family members and hospital staff as a fire broke out in the endoscopy room on the second floor of the old OPD building at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS).

No casualties were reported in the fire, the cause of which is still to be ascertained.

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Hospital sources said the fire forced the suspension of endoscopy, emergency and diagnostics services in the old OPD building. Emergency services are now being restored.

Visuals from the spot showed black smoke billowing out of the windows.

Tannu Devi, who was admitted in the emergency ward, was among those to be evacuated.

“Smoke filled the emergency area all of a sudden. We were so scared but the hospital staff flung into action and evacuated us. I was so worried for my mother,” her daughter Kiran told PTI.

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Some patients were shifted to Safdarjung Hospital. Several others waiting for admission outside the emergency were also asked to go to the nearby hospital.

Dhruv Pal of Bareilly in Uttar Pradesh said he came to the national capital for his son’s treatment.

“I have come here after covering around 300 kilometres for my son’s treatment in the neurology department. I arrived in the morning and found that a fire had broken out near the emergency ward. Now, I have to go back home and return some other day,” Pal said.

A crowd gathered outside the building where the fire broke out, forcing the police to cordon off the area.

Dheeraj Kumar, who came for his dialysis, said, “There was a lot of smoke and everyone was asked to leave the premises.”

A patient who was admitted in the emergency department said the thick smoke caused uneasiness among the patients but they were all evacuated in a timely manner.

In a statement issued later, AIIMS said security and fire control rooms were informed when information about the blaze out on the second floor of the old Raj Kumari Amrit Kaur OPD in the main AIIMS building was received at 11.35 am.

“The fire was controlled immediately by AIIMS Fire Services. Subsequently, fire tender staff of the Delhi Fire Services arrived. They supported the cooling off the area,” the statement said.

Fire department officials, however, said the blaze erupted around 11.55 am. Thirteen water tenders were pressed into service and the fire was brought under control around 1 pm.

AIIMS sources said water from the hospital’s underground tank was also used to douse the flames.

A senior doctor said, “When the fire broke out, two patients were undergoing a procedure in the endoscopy room. These two patients along with around 80 others in the waiting area were evacuated.”

The senior doctor said another 31 patients, including six in the ICU, were shifted from the AB 2 ward and to others in the building.

Doctors, nursing staff and guards also broke some of the glass windows on the second floor to allow the smoke to escape.

Around 70 patients from the paediatric and adult emergency wards on the ground floor were also evacuated as smoke filled the area.

According to the sources, the second floor orthopaedic operation theatre was functional at the time and patients had to be evacuated from there as well.

They said the fire broke out in the store area of the endoscopy room but the cause is not immediately known, hospital sources said.

A safety audit will be conducted to assess the damage.

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