Oxygen Tank Leak Kills at Least 22 COVID Patients: 'Shocking and Painful'

At least 22 COVID-19 patients died on Wednesday after an oxygen tank leaked at a hospital in the city of Nashik, western India.

The Indian Express reported that the Zakir Hussain hospital had more than 150 COVID patients at the time, some of whom were in a critical condition on ventilator and oxygen support.

The leak took place when an oxygen tanker was refilling the main storage tank at the hospital. The resulting loss of supply led to the deaths of several patients, officials said.

"The oxygen supply was stopped for half an hour due to the leak, because of which those on the ventilator lost their lives," said Kailash Jadhav, commissioner of Nashik Municipal Corporation, according to news website India Today.

Officials said a cork in the tank had malfunctioned, which led to a reduction in pressure in the oxygen pipeline that goes to the COVID wards.

Local media outlets published several videos of the incident. The footage showed clouds of oxygen blasting out from the leak at the hospital, which is in the western state of Maharashtra.

"As per current information, 22 people have died due to the interrupted supply of oxygen at the Zakir Hussain municipal hospital," local district official Suraj Mandhare told NDTV.

"People died because the pressure reduced due to the [leak in] the oxygen tank which is provided by a private company. That company looks after the maintenance of this tank," Mandhare said, according to India Today.

Terrible news coming in from Nashik in Maharashtra. 22 people have died in the Municipal hospital after Oxygen Gas Leak. 23 people were on ventilator. pic.twitter.com/fk90a6AzFw

— Aditya Raj Kaul (@AdityaRajKaul) April 21, 2021

The incident comes as the world's second most populous country battles with a severe new wave of COVID-19 infections. Almost 300,000 new cases of the virus were reported on Wednesday and more than 2,000 deaths—both record figures.

The surge in infections has placed a significant strain on hospital beds, critical drugs and oxygen supplies across India. The Zakir Hussain hospital had to call in the oxygen tanker because its supplies were running low.

The chief minister of Maharashtra, Uddhav Thackeray, has ordered an inquiry into the "shocking and painful" incident.

"Those responsible for this accident will not be spared. But no one should politicize this unfortunate incident. This is an attack on Maharashtra. Maharashtra is mourning over the Nashik tragedy," he said.

India's prime minister, Narendra Modi, wrote on Twitter: "The tragedy at a hospital in Nashik because of oxygen tank leakage is heart-wrenching. Anguished by the loss of lives due to it. Condolences to the bereaved families in this sad hour."

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Non-invasive ventilation face mask
Stock image of a non-invasive ventilation face mask in a hospital. At least 22 COVID-19 patients died on Wednesday at a hospital in the city of Nashik, western India, after an oxygen tank began leaking. iStock