Protests break out in Nasiriyah after deadly hospital blaze
Protests broke out in the Iraqi city of Nasiriyah on Tuesday night following a hospital fire which killed at least 60 coronavirus patients.
Hundreds of people gathered at Al-Habboubi Square in central Nasiriyah chanting angry slogans against government negligence in the health sector and calling for officials to be put on trial for the deadly fire at the Al-Husseini Hospital.
The demonstration continued until the early hours of Wednesday morning and protesters set up tents in the square.
Some protesters made their way to the Al-Husseini Hospital and lit candles in memory of the victims.
Nasiriya was a major hub of the protests against poverty and government corruption which swept Iraq in 2019 and 2020.
The protests decreased in frequency and size following the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic in 2020.
One activist, Ali Al-Lami, told The New Arab's Arabic-language service that the retreat of the protest movement had allowed officials to neglect public services.
"There is little chance that the authorities will reform themselves, the only choice is to continue protesting," he said.
The Iraqi government has set up an investigative committee headed by Iraqi Youth and Sports Minister Adnan Dirjal to look into the fire. A source close to the committee told The New Arab’s Arabic service that it was likely to recommend that more officials be sacked or punished over the deadly fire.
On Tuesday, the Iraqi judiciary issued 13 arrest warrants for officials. Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi has said that the results of the committee’s investigation would be published within a week.
The hospital's manager, the provincial health director and the local civil defence chief have all been dismissed from their posts.
On Wednesday, provincial health officials revised the death toll from the fire downwards from 92 to 60.
Thirty-nine bodies have been identified, while 21 are still unidentified.
The fire follows another blaze which broke out in a coronavirus ward in Baghdad last April which killed 82 people.