A fire sparked by an oxygen tank explosion killed at least 82 people and injured 110 at a hospital in Baghdad that had been equipped to house patients with Covid-19, an Interior Ministry spokesman has said.

"We urgently need to review safety measures at all hospitals to prevent such a painful incident from happening in future," spokesman Khalid al-Muhanna told state television, announcing the toll.

The fire erupted at the Ibn Khatib hospital in the Diyala Bridge area.

Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi ordered an investigation.

"Such an incident is evidence of negligence and therefore I directed that an investigation be launched immediately and for the hospital's manager and the heads of security and maintenance to be detained along with all those concerned until we identify those negligent and hold them accountable," he said in a statement.

Iraq's healthcare system, ruined by decades of sanctions, war and neglect, has been stretched during the coronavirus crisis.

The country has recorded a total of 102,5288 infections, including 15,217 deaths, the health ministry said yesterday.


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Patients' relatives scrambled during the blaze to save their loved ones.

A man who had been visiting his brother described people jumping out of windows to escape.

"The fire spread, like fuel ... I took my brother out to the street, next to the checkpoint. Then I came (back) and went up from there. To the last floor, that did not burn. I found a girl suffocating, about 19 years old, she was suffocating, she was about to die," said Ahmed Zaki.

"I took her on my shoulders and I ran down. People were jumping... Doctors fell on the cars. Everyone was jumping. And I kept going up from there, got people and come down again," he said.

Patients were moved to other hospitals, medical sources said. But several families were still at the hospital hours after the fire had been extinguished, after failing to find them elsewhere.

Security has improved in recent years but Iraq still suffers from political violence, including militia rocket attacks on foreign forces and a low-level Islamic State insurgency.

On Wednesday, the number of Covid-19 cases in Iraq surpassed one million, the highest of any Arab state.

The health ministry has recorded 15,217 deaths since the country's first infections were reported in February 2020.

It has said it carries out around 40,000 tests daily from a population of 40 million.

Those patients who can often prefer to source oxygen tanks for treatment at home, rather than go to overcrowded and run-down hospitals.

The country launched its vaccination campaign last month, and has received nearly 650,000 doses of different vaccines - the majority by donation or through the Covax programme, which is helping lower and middle income nations to procure vaccines.