New footage has emerged showing the terrifying speed with which a blaze spread through a temporary COVID-19 hospital in North Macedonia.
The incident in which the building turned into an inferno in a matter of minutes resulted in the resignation of the country’s health minister with footage showing how staff struggle to push one person away in a wheelchair while others scramble out of the window in the city of Tetovo in North Macedonia.
The authorities have identified the 14 victims, confirming that 12 people were patients and 2 were there visiting relatives in the Covid-19 field hospital last Wednesday at around 9 pm on 8th September.
The public prosecutor’s office said the dead were eight women and six men who ranged in age between 29 and 78.
According to reports, an autopsy is also being carried on the 15th blackened body from the hospital in Tetovo which is from a 20-year-old patient with cerebral palsy it is believed was being resuscitated in an unrelated incident when the fire broke out.
Whether the resuscitation work was connected to the fire and whether she was already dead or had been revived when the blaze struck is the subject of the current investigation.
Regardless of the outcome, North Macedonia’s health minister Venko Filipce resigned two days later
The Deputy Minister in the Ministry of Health, Ilir Hasani as well as the director of the Tetovo hospital Florim Besimi and the economic director of the hospital Artan Etemi earlier gave their resignations the same day.
The modular COVID-19 unit was built last year to help deal with the pandemic but only started accepting patients in April 2021 after a period of delays, with the local authorities blaming the central government, the health ministry, and the building contractor.
The nineteen field hospitals were funded by a World Bank loan, and the Ministry of Health claims that all of them were built to the highest medical and safety standards.
The government declared three days of mourning throughout the country for the accident in the COVID centre in Tetovo.
Over the weekend during the mourning period, people marched in silence through central Tetovo holding flowers and also knelt in prayer in front of the destroyed hospital.
The North Macedonia government announced that a team from Germany´s Federal Criminal Police Office will join the investigation, as well as an electrical engineering expert to help determine how the blaze broke out.
According to local media, President Stevo Pendarovski has said the investigation would be completed within five days but confirmed from the preliminary report that the fire was not set deliberately.
Meanwhile, Macedonian Prime Minister Zoran Zaev announced that he will look over the resignations from the health minister, but for the time being, he accepts them.
He said, “Given that the investigation is conducted with high dynamics and that it is provided with the highest level of expertise and professionalism, my assessment and decision regarding the submitted resignations will be based solely on the facts I receive from the investigation, ie exclusively according to the identified reasons for the outbreak of fire.”
The wisdom of the resignation in the country of two million people raised concerns about the way forward with an already fragile health system now having to move forward with its vaccine rollout program, already suffering delays, without a health minister or deputy minister.