SKOPJE -- North Macedonia’s authorities say a fire that ripped a makeshift coronavirus treatment center has left at least 14 people dead.
The fire broke out following an explosion in a modular unit used to treat COVID-19 patients in the northwestern city of Tetovo late on September 8 before being put out by firefighters.
"A huge tragedy has occurred in the Tetovo COVID-19 center," Prime Minister Zoran Zaev said on Twitter.
"An explosion caused a fire. The fire was extinguished, but many lives were lost," he added.
Firefighters put out the blaze after a couple of hours while oxygen cylinders used to treat hospitalized coronavirus patients exploded, Tetovo deputy fire chief Saso Trajcevski said.
The Public Prosecutor's Office later said in a statement that "prosecutors have ordered autopsies to identify the bodies of the 14 people who died in the fire and we are looking into whether there are others dead."
"Some of the dead will need DNA analysis to determine their identities. According to initial information, there are no medical staff among the deceased."
The cause of the explosion is being investigated.
It is unclear how many patients were in the hospital when the fire broke out around 9 p.m.
An unspecified number of injured were transferred to a hospital in the capital, Skopje.
With less than one-third of North Macedonia's 2 million inhabitants fully vaccinated, the country has seen a significant spike in coronavirus infections and deaths since early August, prompting the government to reimpose restrictions on access to cafes, restaurants, and public events.
North Macedonia has recorded more than 6,100 fatalities due to COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic.