Deadly fire wreaks havoc in Ghent emergency department

Deadly fire wreaks havoc in Ghent emergency department
BELGA PHOTO KURT DESPLENTER

A 44-year-old man died yesterday morning in a fire in an isolation box in the emergency room of the AZ Maria Middelares hospital in Ghent. It is possible that the victim set the fire himself with an investigation into the case ongoing, Het Laatste Niews reports.

Blackened walls, pieces of ceiling that fell, pipes exposed, a melted hospital trolley, destroyed equipment and the entire floor covered in firewater, soot and black gunk. The contrast with the surviving white-painted walls of the treatment rooms to the left of the emergency room corridor is enormous.

Short but intense fire

A fire broke out in a so-called isolation box just before 06:00 on Sunday. The box is a room in which patients are taken when there is a risk that they could injure themselves or someone else. Usually, these are people who are heavily under the influence of alcohol or narcotics or psychiatric patients. The hospital speaks of a short but very intense fire. The fire brigade arrived at the scene quickly, but it was too late for the patient in the isolation room.

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The victim possibly set the fire himself. How this was possible is unclear.  Rooms like the one he was in are characterised by the fact that there is hardly anything – except for a bed and a toilet – inside. At the hospital yesterday, no one wanted to say whether the patient was checked for dangerous objects. ''There are different procedures depending on the type of patient, but even for his sake we cannot say anything about that.'' The investigation is ongoing.

Other patients in the emergency room were evacuated to hospitals in the area. Four were slightly injured. The emergency room itself was closed. If all goes well, it will be reopened this afternoon. It will, however, be done in emergency tents outside.


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