Emergency services at the scene of the fire in Senegal early this morning
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Eleven newborn babies are killed as fire tears through neonatal unit of hospital in western Senegal

  • Blaze tore through hospital unit 75 miles east of Senegal’s capital city of Dakar
  • Country’s President Macky Sall said 11 newborn babies died in the tragedy 

Eleven newborn babies died last night when a fire that tore through the neonatal section of a regional hospital in the town of Tivaouane, around 75 miles east of Senegal’s capital Dakar.

‘I have just learned with pain and consternation the death of 11 newborn babies in the fire that occurred in the neonatology department of the Mme Abdou Aziz Sy Dabakh hospital in Tivaouane,’  the country’s President Macky Sall said in a Tweet without giving further details about the fire.

‘To their mothers and their families, I express my deepest sympathy,’ he added.

Emergency services at the scene of the fire in Senegal early this morning

Emergency services at the scene of the fire in Senegal early this morning

The fire service and regional officials could not be immediately reached for comment.

The tragedy was caused by ‘a short circuit’, according to Senegalese politician Diop Sy.

‘The fire spread very quickly,’ he said.

The city’s mayor Demba Diop said ‘three babies were saved’.

According to local media, the Mame Abdou Aziz Sy Dabakh Hospital was newly inaugurated.

Health minister Abdoulaye Diouf Sarr, who was in Geneva attending a meeting with the World Health Organization, said he would return to Senegal immediately.

‘This situation is very unfortunate and extremely painful,’ he said on radio. ‘An investigation is under way to see what happened.’

The tragedy in Tivaouane comes after several other incidents at public health facilities in Senegal, where there is great disparity between urban and rural areas in healthcare services.

Locals gather near to the hospital in western Senegal where 11 babies died in a fire last night

Locals gather near to the hospital in western Senegal where 11 babies died in a fire last night

The tragedy at Mme Abdou Aziz Sy Dabakh hospital in Tivaouane (pictured) comes just weeks after four babies died in another hospital fire in the town of Linguere

The tragedy at Mme Abdou Aziz Sy Dabakh hospital in Tivaouane (pictured) comes just weeks after four babies died in another hospital fire in the town of Linguere

In the northern town of Linguere in late April, a fire broke out at a hospital and four newborn babies were killed. The mayor of that town had cited an electrical malfunction in an air conditioning unit in the maternity ward.

Wednesday’s accident also comes over a month after the nation mourned the death of a pregnant woman who waited in vain for a Caesarean section.

The woman, named Astou Sokhna, had arrived at a hospital in the northern city of Louga in pain. The staff had refused to accommodate her request for a C-section, saying that it was not scheduled.

She died April 1, 20 hours after she arrived.

Sokhna’s death caused a wave of outrage across the country on the dire state of Senegal’s public health system, and health minister Sarr acknowledged two weeks later that the death could have been avoided.

Three midwives – on duty the night Sokhna died – were sentenced on May 11 by the High Court of Louga to six months of suspended imprisonment for ‘failure to assist a person in danger’ in connection to her case.

On Thursday, opposition lawmaker Mamadou Lamine Diallo tweeted in response to the Tivaouane blaze that kill the babies.

‘More babies burned in a public hospital… this is unacceptable @MackySall,’ he said.

‘We suffer with the families to whom we offer our condolences. Enough is enough.’

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