Senegal arrests three over babies’ deaths in hospital fire 

Senegalese police have made their first arrests in connection with a fire at a hospital in which 11 babies died, trade union sources said on Monday.

The blaze broke out in a neonatal ward in the western town of Tivaouane last Wednesday.

President Macky Sall fired his health minister, Abdoudaye Diouf Sarr, a day after the tragedy.

The three people arrested in connection with the case were a midwife, a nurse and the head of the hospital’s human resources department, a health workers’ union official told AFP.

They were being questioned on suspicion of “endangering the lives of others,” official Ousmane Diouf said.

The two medical professionals were arrested on Sunday.

The cause of the fire at the Mame Abdou Aziz Sy Dabakh hospital has not been established although an electrical short-circuit has been cited as a possible source. 

Witnesses reported that the blaze spread rapidly in the neonatal unit and that staff and patients were unable to save the children. 

Bereaved relatives have complained of a lack of supervision in the ward.

Local mayor Demba Diop has denied allegations from relatives and across social media that the babies had been left alone, saying a midwife and nurse were present when the fire broke out.

The mayor said the air-conditioning had fanned the flames. The two nurses fainted but were revived, he added.

“There was no negligence,” he insisted.

The tragedy was the latest in a series of fatal incidents highlighting shortcomings in Senegal’s health system.

On Friday, the Global Mercy, the world’s biggest purpose-built civilian hospital ship, docked in Dakar for a four-week stint to train health professionals.

The 12-deck, 174-metre-long (570-feet), 37,000-tonne vessel was handed over to the Mercy Ships charity by its shipbuilders last July.

The time in Senegal “will be a tremendous opportunity to put the Global Mercy to work tangibly in Africa for the first time, with a focus on medical capacity-building,” Mercy Ships said.

President Sall formally welcomed the ship into Dakar port on Monday at a ceremony also attended by Guinea-Bissau President Umaro Sissoco Embalo and Comoros President Azali Assoumani.

The health ministers of The Gambia, Cameroon and Republic of Congo, also called Congo-Brazzaville, were also present.


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