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India: Kolkata hospital fire kills more than 90 patients and staff (VIDEO)

More than 80 people were killed Friday when a fire broke out at AMRI Hospital in Kolkata, India.

At least 94 people were killed when a fire broke out at a hospital in Kolkata, eastern India, in the early hours of Friday morning.

Six members of the AMRI Hospital's board have been arrested on charges of culpable homicide and the hospital's licence revoked, local news channel NDTV reported. The cause of the blaze is still unknown.

Authorities accused hospital officials of failing to respect basic fire safety laws, while families of the victims accused staff of leaving patients helpless in their beds as the flames took hold.

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The fire broke out in the hospital's basement at around 3:00 AM Friday morning.

Some 160 patients were in the building at the time, including between 40 to 50 in the intensive care unit (ICU). Many ICU patients are reported to have died of smoke inhalation.

One eyewitness told the Times of India that hospital staff initially appeared to ignore the reports of smoke, claiming that "such minor fires would not affect the ICU because it was completely secure."

Raja Ganguly, who was on the ground floor of the hospital after visiting his father in the ICU, said:

"Within a short while, smoke was all over the hospital and we started coughing horribly. Soon many of us started choking and something inside me said that all was lost. There was so much commotion all round, screams filled the air and too much smoke made it impossible for us to see anything."

His father was later found dead.

Many of the deaths could have been prevented had the glass-fronted hospital building had proper ventilation, safety experts told the Times of India.

Another man said his wife, who was being treated for a broken ankle, had called him around 3:30 AM complaining that she could not breathe and that no staff were around to help, reported the Guardian.

"Senior hospital authorities ran away after the fire broke out," West Bengal state minister for public health engineering Subrata Mukherjee said.

Criticism was also levelled at firefighters, who were accused of arriving hours after the fire started and with only ladders and ropes to rescue patients from upper storeys. Photographs showed patients being lowered from the building on pulleys.

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Angry relatives gathered outside the hospital and charged the vehicles of government officials who came to visit the site, the BBC reported.

The hospital denies violating safety regulations, senior vice-president Satyabrata Upadhay told NDTV. Hospital executives have offered compensation of 200,000 rupees (around $4,000) to the relatives of each person killed, reported the Associated Press.

Privately-owned AMRI was recently rated one of Kolkata's best hospitals by a local magazine, the AP said. The expensive facility "prides itself on its super specialty facilities and attracts several foreigners," according to the Times of India.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/asia-pacific/india/111209/india-kolkata-hospital-fire-kills-more-80-patients