Superwoman to the rescue! Saudi nurse saves seven babies from fire
Firefighters gather outside the Jazan General Hospital in southern Saudi Arabia after a blaze broke out in the intensive care unit and the maternity department, killing at least 25 people and injuring 107, on December 24, 2015. (AFP/File)
A Saudi nurse has been praised for taking seven babies out of a burning hospital to safety.
Amira Esmail was inside Jazan General Hospital when she saw thick smoke billowing from the babies’ department.
“It was 1am when a colleague told me she smelled something burning,” Amira said. “I told her that I did not smell anything, but when she insisted we decided to go and check. We did smell smoke coming out of the janitors’ room where they keep cleaning material. We then met security and safety servicewomen who were screaming that there was a fire and that everyone should leave immediately,” Amira was quoted as saying by Saudi news site Sabq.
The nurse immediately looked at the nursery where babies were placed on small beds.
“I could see the place from behind the glass partition and I could see the flames. It was a horrible sight, so my colleague and I broke into tears. However, I decided to take action and I held my tears back. I asked the security staff to break the glass, and I entered the nursery where seven babies were lying. I put four of them in a blanket and I handed them to people not far from me and asked them to take them out of the hospital,” she said.
“I then took another baby and handed him to my colleague and then a second baby whom I gave to an employee. I took the last baby with me and left the nursery. I then headed to the intensive care unit and I discovered that the door was closed and that those inside were not aware of the fire. I started pounding the door until they came out, and they took the baby who was in their care out with them. All the babies were safe, thank God,” she said.
Amira said she was upset when she heard rumours that all the babies in the nursery had been trapped in the fire.
“The fact is that they were all safe after we had rescued them. They are all fine,” she said. “The most terrible feeling is the sight of dead bodies and the cries of the injured, especially the older ones, as they were calling for help. It was really frightening and until now I have not been able to sleep,” she said.
Saudis heaped praise on Amira and all those who assisted her as she braved the flames and took the babies to safety.
Online users called for honouring her for her singular courage and contrasted her life-saving attitude with the negligence and carelessness that caused the worst catastrophe in a Saudi hospital.
According to official figures 25 people were killed and 123 were injured in a massive fire that broke out in the early hours on Thursday.
Health ministry officials said that all the victims died from asphyxiation.
Witnesses said that the rescue operations were hampered initially by the fact that the emergency doors were chained or locked.
By Habib Toumi