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A blaze that broke out in a Romanian hospital in the eastern city of Constanta has claimed at least nine lives, the authorities have said, making it the country’s third fatal hospital fire in under a year.

Firefighters put out the blaze at around 8am GMT on Friday at the Hospital for Infectious Diseases, with additional teams from other districts brought in to help extinguish the fire. All patients were safely evacuated.

Images uploaded to social media purported to show plumes of thick smoke spewing from the building, which housed 113 patients at the time, 10 of whom were in intensive care.

A mobile triage unit has been erected nearby, and dozens of patients have so far been transferred to other hospitals.

The fire in the port city of Constanta marks Romania’s third such blaze in under a year. In January, a ward in Bucharest’s Matei Bals Hospital went up in flames, killing at least five people. The blaze in the capital prompted President Klaus Iohannis to call for urgent reform to his country’s underdeveloped healthcare infrastructure, vowing that such a tragedy must never happen again.

Last November, 10 patients died after a fire engulfed an intensive care unit for Covid cases in Piatra Neamt, in the country’s north.

Romania, which is home to some 19 million people, ranks second-lowest for vaccinations against coronavirus across the 27-member state EU bloc, with only around 28% of its population having so far been immunized.

Since the outbreak of the pandemic, the Eastern European nation has registered more than 1.2 million cases and 37,041 Covid-related fatalities.

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