A fire raced through a hospital in Rio de Janeiro, forcing staff to wheel patients into the streets on beds or in wheelchairs and leaving at least 11 people dead, Brazilian officials said Friday.
Four firefighters were hospitalized after battling the overnight blaze at Badim Hospital and about 90 patients were transferred to other hospitals, according to the fire department. Authorities are investigating the cause of the blaze.
Medical workers in surgical masks wheeled equipment in the road as smoke billowed from the building after fire broke out Thursday night. Television images showed staff tending to patients sitting in wheelchairs with IV poles beside them in the street, some on sheets and mattresses. Elderly and intensive care patients were among those rescued.
In the chaos, distraught relatives tried to track down patients, unsure of whether they had perished in the fire or had been transferred to another medical facility.
Standing near ambulances, Tania Ferreira told Brazil’s GloboNews television that she couldn’t find her 76-year-old mother, who was hospitalized after suffering several strokes.
“She can’t speak properly. I need to find my mother, but no one is giving any information,” Ferreira said. “I’m here, stuck, and what do I do? Where do I run to? Where do I go? Can someone tell me? I’m desperate.”
Marcelo Crivella, the mayor of Rio de Janeiro, said 11 people died. He visited the hospital on Friday morning and declared an official mourning period of three days.
A social worker and other Badim Hospital staff are assisting relatives of patients, the hospital said Friday.
Associated Press journalist Diane Jeantet contributed.