8 Newborns Die in Fire at Maternity Hospital in Algeria

Eight newborns were killed on Sept. 24 in a fire in the maternity wing of an Algerian hospital near the border with Tunisia, authorities said.

Three babies died of burns and five of asphyxiation, according to the Civil Protection Directorate (CPD).

“Sources say that the newly-born babies were completely burned and are difficult to identify,” according to private TV station Ennahar.

The CPD added that 11 newborns, 37 mothers and 28 employees were evacuated after the blaze broke out at 4 a.m. in the town of El Oued, 600 kilometers (360 miles) southeast of the capital, Algiers.

The national emergency service said in a statement that at this time, the fire was under control but not yet extinguished.

The Algerian General of Civil Protection wrote on Twitter firefighters worked to prevent the spread of the fire to other places in the hospital. Dozens of fire trucks and ambulances raced to the scene, according to reports.

Health Minister Mohamed Miraoui said that the blaze may have been caused by a defective anti-mosquito device.

Miraoui told TV station Ennahar he demanded an “urgent investigation” to identify whether the initial findings pointing to an electric spark.

The victims’ families also gathered outside the hospital, calling for an investigation, the outlet said.

The town, El Oued, has five hospitals, including a specialist eye hospital staffed by Cuban doctors, RTE reported.

The quality of government services has often been a cause of frustration and anger in Algeria, particularly in areas outside the capital.

In May 2018, a fire broke out at the maternity hospital in Oued Souf, causing damage but no injuries, according to Al Jazeera.

The Associated Press, Reuters and The CNN Wire contributed to this report.