10 young children die in 10-hour span at Bangladesh hospital

Ten infants and young children died in a single night in an overcrowded state-run hospital in northeastern Bangladesh, prompting authorities to investigate whether staff negligence was involved, officials said Tuesday.

The children, ranging in age from 1 day to 3 1/2 years old, had been admitted with a variety of ailments, including malnutrition, infections and pneumonia, said Abdus Salam, deputy director of M.A.G. Osmani Medical College and Hospital in the city of Sylhet. The deaths occurred between 8 p.m. Monday and 6 a.m. Tuesday.

Salam said the deaths were "natural," but relatives said negligence by doctors and nurses in the overcrowded facility were to blame.

The hospital has a capacity of 500 beds, but treats up to 1,800 patients a day, said Abdus Sabur Mia, the hospital's director.

"In a facility like this, many die naturally every day. It's normal," Mia said. "But we will look into the cases of the children's deaths seriously."

He said results of an investigation were expected in a week.

Sylhet is 192 kilometers (120 miles) northeast of Dhaka, Bangladesh's capital.

The impoverished South Asian country has reduced the number of infant and maternal deaths in recent years with nationwide immunization campaigns.