At least 13 patients including 6 women perished in a major fire that broke out in a private Covid hospital in Virar town of Palghar district of Maharashtra, around 80 kms north of Mumbai, early on Friday, officials said.

President R. N. Kovind, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari, Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, Union Home Minister Amit Shah, Leader of Opposition (Assembly) Devendra Fadnavis and other leaders have expressed grief over the tragedy.

The conflagration was noticed around 3.15 a.m. in the ICU ward located on the second floor of the 4-storeyed Vijay Vallabh hospital at Tirupati Nagar in Virar.

The Vasai-Virar Municipal Corporation immediately rushed fire-fighting teams and other rescue agencies to the spot to battle the blaze, believed to be caused by a suspected electrical short-circuit.

The fire was brought under control after two hours, around 5.50 a.m.

While 13 people perished in the burning ICU, around 4 others there were shifted and rushed to safety before the flames spread further.

Taking serious note of the incident, Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray ordered a probe into the tragedy and announced a compensation of Rs 5 lakh to the kin of all deceased, besides Rs 100,000 to all the seriously injured.

Prime Minister Modi also announced a compensation of Rs 2 lakh to the family of each deceased and Rs 50,000 to those seriously injured.

Terming the fire as “a huge tragedy,” Health Minister Rajesh Tope said that the VVMC will give a compensation of Rs 5 lakh to the kin of the victims.

Agriculture Minister and Palghar Guardian Minister Dada D. Bhuse, two local legislators of Bahujan Vikas Aghadi (BVA) Hitendra Thakur and his son Kshitij Thakur, besides Leader of Opposition (Council) Pravin Darekar, top police and civic officials rushed to the site to review the rescue operations.

This is the second major Covid season tragedy in the past 48 hours after an oxygen gas leak in a Nashik Municipal Corporation hospital on April 21 claimed 29 lives so far.