Eleven newborn babies have died after a fire that broke out in the neonatal department at the Mame Abdou Aziz Sy Dabakh Hospital in the western Senegalese city of Tivaouane, said the country’s president Macky Sall on Thursday.
“I just learned, with pain and consternation, the death of 11 newborn babies,” Sall said in a tweet.
“I express my profound compassion to their mothers and their families,” he added.
CNN has contacted the hospital, but has not yet heard back.
In a statement later Thursday, the country’s health ministry said an emergency response plan had been put in place and “arrangements are being made for the assistance of the families of the victims.”
The ministry’s statement added that Health Minister Abdoulaye Diouf Sarr, who is attending the World Health Assembly in Geneva had cut short his trip and would return to Senegal today.
President Sall has asked for an investigation to find out the cause of the hospital fire, the country’s interior minister Antoine Felix Abdoulaye Diome told reporters during his visit to the hospital overnight on Wednesday.
“Beyond that, he (President Sall) asked that we review all the equipment and infrastructure dedicated to newborns who need assistance with machines for their care,” Diome said.
“We are going to do it here in Tivaouane and in all the hospitals in Senegal where there is a neonatal service,” he added.
Senegalese Minister of Regional Planning and Local Government, Cheikh Bamba Dièye, described the fatal incident as “horrific and unacceptable” while urging a probe of the country’s health systems.
“I am appalled by the horrific and unacceptable death of 11 newborn babies in Tivaoune. The recurrence of tragedies in our hospitals reminds us of the obligation to thoroughly review the quality of service in our hospitals. My deepest condolences to the families,” he said in a Twitter post.