Senegalese President sacks Health Minister following deadly hospital fire

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The President of Senegal, Macky Sall, has sacked his health minister on Thursday, following the death of 11 newborn babies in a hospital fire blamed on an electrical short circuit.

Sall had earlier announced the tragedy on Twitter and declared three days of national mourning.

“I have just learned with pain and dismay about the deaths of 11 newborn babies in the fire at the neonatal department of the public hospital,” he wrote.

The city’s mayor Demba Diop said the fire had been caused by a short circuit and spread very quickly.

He denied allegations from relatives at the hospital and across social media that the babies had been left alone, saying a midwife and nurse were present on Wednesday evening.

“There was a noise and an explosion that lasted three minutes at most,” he said outside the hospital entrance.

“Five minutes after, the fire brigade arrived. People used fire extinguishers.”

The mayor said the air-conditioning had accelerated the flames and added that the two nurses fainted but were revived.

The disaster however sparked calls for the resignation of Health Minister Abdoudaye Diouf Sarr, who was quoted in media reports also as blaming an electrical fault.

The presidency in the evening said he would be replaced by Marie Khemesse Ngom Ndiaye, formerly the director-general of the public health authority.

Sall would return early from abroad and visit the hospital on Saturday, his office said.

The maternity unit was equipped to take care of 13 babies.

“At the time of the fire, there were 11 whom nurses were unable to save,” the minister said.