BUCHAREST -- Romanian officials say at least five people have died after a fire broke out in a Bucharest hospital where COVID-19 patients were being treated, the second deadly hospital fire in the country in less than three months.
Raed Arafat, state secretary of the Interior Ministry, said on January 29 that three patients were found dead at the Matei Bals hospital and a fourth died despite attempts at resuscitation.
The body of a fifth victim was later found in one of the bathrooms, Interior Minister Lucian Bode announced in an update of the total on January 29.
Bode earlier said that 60 people were transferred to other buildings of the Matei Bals Institute and another 44 to other hospitals in the capital.
Health Minister Vlad Voiculescu said none of the evacuated patients had burns.
The blaze, which has since been extinguished, broke out on the ground floor in one of the buildings of the hospital at around 5 a.m.
According to firefighters, there were about 200 people in the building at the time of the fire, whose cause was not yet known.
Matei Bals is one of the largest and most used hospitals treating COVID-19 patients in Romania.
The building where the blaze broke out was built in 1953 and had been completely renovated, according to Streinu Cercel, general manager of the National Institute for Infectious Diseases.
He said the patients there had medium to serious COVID-19 infections and most were using oxygen.
A criminal case was opened into the tragedy, which comes after 10 people suffering from COVID-19 died in a fire in an intensive-care unit of a hospital in the northeastern town of Piatra Neamt in November.
The Health Ministry has suggested the fire could have been caused by an electrical short circuit.
Romania, one of the poorest countries in the European Union, is trying to manage the coronavirus pandemic with a dilapidated and understaffed health-care system.
The country of 19 million has reported more than 721,000 coronavirus infections and over 18,100 deaths.