CHANDIGARH, India – Five newborns, all less than a week old, were killed and another was injured Saturday in northern India after a short circuit sparked a fire in the hospital maternity ward where they were being treated for jaundice.
The blaze began before dawn at the state-run Rajendra hospital in the city of Patiala, apparently after a machine that helps treat jaundiced babies by exposing them to a special light malfunctioned, said police officer Pritpal Singh.
Five other newborns were rescued, including one that suffered burns. All the babies were under a week old and receiving treatment under the phototherapy machine.
"There was a short circuit in the tubes of the machines," hospital superintendent Surinder Singh told a local television station. "The staff reacted immediately, but unfortunately five babies could not be saved."
Television footage showed several weeping relatives outside the hospital, including some of the mothers who had been in nearby rooms at the time of the fire.
One man emerged from the building carrying a small body wrapped in a sheet.
Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal said an investigation into the incident has been ordered and victims' families are to receive compensation of 100,000 rupees ($2,040).
Police said the children apparently died of burns and smoke inhalation, but the exact cause of the deaths would not be known until the bodies were examined.
Patiala is some 30 miles (48 kilometers) south of Chandigarh, the capital of the north Indian state of Punjab.