They charred to death my 5-day child, grieves mother of newborn killed in Delhi hospital fire

The massive fire, which broke out at Newborn Baby Care Hospital at Vivek Vihar, exposes several lapses — non-registration, no NOC, single narrow exit, congested space, alleged illegal oxygen refilling, etc.

Devanshi Batra,

Support TwoCircles

“They set my five days-old on fire,” lamented an inconsolable mother outside the city’s Guru Teg Bahadur Hospital, where bodies of seven deceased infants were sent for postmortem examination.

A massive blaze erupted at the Newborn Baby Care Hospital in East Delhi’s Vivek Vihar, resulting in the deaths of seven newborns. While 12 children were rescued from the burning building, seven died and the remaining five are battling for life.

Six infants were brought dead to the hospital, while one was kept on a ventilator who later succumbed to injuries. The fire is believed to have broken out at 11:30 pm on May 25 at the top floor of the hospital, where 12 children were admitted.

Waiting outside the GTB Hospital to receive charred remains of their dear ones, the parents and relatives were overwhelmed with grief. The grieving mothers were wailing, struggling to comprehend the tragic events.

The five rescued infants were shifted to the nearby Advanced Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) of the same hospital. Their parents and relatives complained that they did not receive any information about the incident from the hospital administration.

When they came to know about the massive fire, they began making frantic calls to the hospital but allegedly did not get any response. They claimed they were not allowed to stay with the babies at the hospital.

Sindhu, 38, the relative of a six-day-old boy, who was undergoing treatment at the Newborn Baby Care Hospital, narrated the horror. “I rushed there in the morning after learning about the incident from media reports. The hospital did not inform us. Fortunately, he was rescued and is alive,” she said.

Suresh, 68, grandmother of a five-day-old baby girl, also claimed that she was not informed and learnt about the incident through TV news. “Our granddaughter had a minor illness, and we were expecting her to be discharged today (May 26). We had no idea that an incident like this would happen. We weren’t even informed. We found out this morning through the news. The hospital didn’t notify us. Though she is safe, she is experiencing breathing difficulties,” she added.

The hospital authorities stated a total of five children are receiving care at the NICU, and all are in stable condition. Some are experiencing breathing issues; but otherwise, all are out of danger.

The two-storeyed medical facility where the fire broke out has only one narrow exit. Local residents also claimed that the authorities did not have a no objection certificate.

“The Delhi government’s health department is entirely responsible for the incident. Why was this hospital given a license when it was not fulfilling the eligibility criteria? The exit is congested and has a single staircase. There is no alternate arrangement for emergency evacuation,” said Pushpendra Kumar Gupta, a local.

Residents also alleged oxygen cylinders were being illegally traded at the hospital, and they had previously reported it to the owner as well.

Aman Jain, who lives in a house adjacent to the hospital, said, “They used to refill small cylinders from the bigger ones. And the fire erupted following an explosion during the refilling. The hospital has been indulging in this illegal trade for three years. The hospital gets oxygen supply every day. We could see trucks and vans loading and unloading oxygen cylinders. This is a baby care hospital; how much oxygen does a small baby need?”

Abid Ali, who witnessed the entire incident at night and helped in the rescue operation, said that there were at least seven explosions and that the hospital staff fled when the fire erupted. He along with a few others went to the back of the hospital building, set up a ladder, broke windows and rescued the infants.

“I didn’t even know there were newborns inside. As I noticed flames and black smoke rising from the top floor of the hospital, I informed the staff. One of them came out, then went back inside to alert others. To my surprise, instead of calling the fire brigade, raising alarms and making attempts to douse the fire, they all escaped. There were at least seven explosions. Cylinders began exploding one after another. One even landed on the nearby ITI premise. The fire kept engulfing the entire building for half an hour before it was extinguished by fire fighters. The children were rescued around midnight.” he added.

According to news agency ANI, the hospital had not obtained a mandatory No Objection Certificate (NOC) from the fire department. Delhi Fire Services chief Atul Garg said, “No NOC was issued by the DFS (Delhi Fire Service) to the Baby Care Newborn Hospital in Vivek Vihar. The matter is currently under investigation.”

According to a police official close to the development, a first information report (FIR) has been lodged against the owner of the hospital under sections of 336 (endangering life of personal safety of others), 304A (death by negligence) and 34 (criminal activity) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).  The owner, Naveen Kichi, a resident of Paschim Vihar, is absconding.

According to the hospital’s website, Khichi serves as both a paediatrician and the director of the facility.

“The owner has a previous criminal record, including a case regarding non-registration of the hospital. He is also accused of wrongly treating a newborn. Investigations are going on, and we are probing into the previous cases as well,” said a senior police official on condition of anonymity.