Nine patients lost their lives early Saturday in a fire at a private hospital in southeastern Turkey, the country’s health minister said.

“The painful incident that occurred in an intensive care unit in Gaziantep upset us all,” Fahrettin Koca said on Twitter, adding: “Other patients affected by the fire were transferred to nearby hospitals by our emergency teams.”

Wishing Allah’s mercy on the fire’s victims, Koca added that they are closely following developments after the deadly incident.

Justice Minister Abdulhamid Gul and Health Minister Fahrettin Koca have both come to the hospital to inspect the scene,

The incident took place at 4.45 a.m. (0145 GMT) on Saturday in the COVID-19 intensive care unit at SANKO University Hospital.

The fire was caused by a high-flow oxygen therapy machine used to treat COVID-19 patients, according to a statement by the university. The nine victims were all age 56 to 85.

Over 50 people, including doctors, medical personnel and security guards, were affected by the fire while trying to transfer patients from the scene during the incident, and 10 staffers are in oxygen therapy, the hospital said in a statement.

Police and fire teams were dispatched to the scene. The fire was quickly contained.

An investigation has been launched into the deadly incident, the hospital said.

Following the incident, 11 patients receiving COVID-19 treatment in the intensive care unit were transferred to other hospitals, it added in a statement.

Two prosecutors along with an expert committee are looking into the cause of the fire, according to the Gaziantep Prosecutor’s Office.

Officials extend condolences

On Saturday, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan wished Allah’s mercy upon those who lost their lives and said may Allah protect Turkey from such disasters.

On social media, Vice President Fuat Oktay and Parliament Speaker Mustafa Sentop also expressed sympathy with the families of those who lost their lives and wished a speedy recovery to the injured.

Extending his condolences on Twitter, presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin wished Allah’s mercy upon those who lost their lives and a speedy recovery to the injured.

Expressing his sorrow over the incident on Twitter, Kemal Kilicdaroglu, head of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), said he hoped the death toll would not grow larger.

SANKO Holding and University Hospital officials also extended condolences and expressed their sorrow.

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