Brussels (Brussels Morning) At least ten people were killed, and many more injured, as a fire of unknown origin engulfed a makeshift coronavirus hospital in the North Macedonian town of Tetovo.
Some local reports indicate that the fire was preceded by an explosion on site, and this information was also shared by Macedonian Prime Minister Zoran Zaev on social media, though no other official sources corroborated this claim.
On Thursday, Zaev pledged that the cause of the fire will be determined, and noted that the authorities are already investigating the site of the fire. Macedonian media reported that three state attorneys from Tetovo and two from the capital went to the location.
According to the city’s Deputy Fire Chief Saso Trajcevski, the fire spread quickly and became huge due to the nature of the modular hospital, which consists of many flammable plastic-made elements.
North Macedonia’s Health Minister Venko Filipce announced the deaths on Twitter on Wednesday night, describing the incident as a “terrible accident”, confirming that at least ten people were killed and warning that the number could rise in the coming hours. As of Thursday afternoon, at least 14 dead were confirmed, with some local sources claiming the final figure could rise up to 30 cases.
Filipce’s Health Ministry announced that the injured from the site, both medical personnel which worked at the hospital and the coronavirus patients who were treated there, would be transferred to the hospitals in the country’s capital of Skopje, situated some 45 kilometres east of Tetovo.
The hospital burned down completely in the fire, reducing the country’s already-strained coronavirus capacities. Covid-19 cases have been on the rise in Northern Macedonia since mid-August, prompting the government to impose stricter measures, such as passes for cafes and restaurants. The town of Tetovo, inhabited mostly by ethnic Albanians, has one of the highest coronavirus case incidences in the country.