At least 60 children died over five days at a government hospital in northern India that suffered oxygen shortages, officials said Saturday amid fears the toll could rise.
Authorities said they launched an inquiry but denied reports that a lack of oxygen had caused the deaths at the Baba Raghav Das Hospital in Gorakhpur district in Uttar Pradesh state, which is ruled by Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party.
Indian media said 30 children died on Thursday and Friday after oxygen supply was disrupted in wards housing the sick, allegedly because the suppliers' bills were not paid.
"We have launched an inquiry and a preliminary report should be out today. Yes, sixty patients have died at the hospital in the last five days but we don't think it's linked to reports of oxygen shortage," Anil Kumar, Gorakhpur's divisional commissioner told AFP.
A statement issued by the office of state chief minister Yogi Adityanath, which has ordered the inquiry, said that all 60 deaths had occurred at the hospital's pediatric ward over a five-day period starting Monday.
Twenty-three children died on Thursday, when, according to the statement, "the pressure of the liquid oxygen supply became low and 52 reserve oxygen cylinders were pressed into service".
The Hindustan Times newspaper on Saturday described chaotic scenes at the hospital as oxygen supply was disrupted.
Source: News Agencies, Edited by website team