New Delhi:

The Centre on Monday asked all states to ensure proper fire safety in hospitals and nursing homes, saying utmost precautions must be taken at a time when the country is fighting the coronavirus pandemic.

Union Home Secretary Ajay Kumar Bhalla wrote a letter to chief secretaries of all states and Union territories in the wake of recent fire incidents in two hospitals in Gujarat which killed 14 people.

The home secretary said occurrence of various fire incidents in hospitals and nursing homes in recent past and non-adherence of fire safety measures by authorities in their respective jurisdiction is a matter of concern.

Bhalla said recently six precious lives of COVID-19 patients were lost in a fire incident at an ICU ward of a hospital in Rajkot and eight people died in a hospital in Ahmedabad.

"At such a crucial time, when the country is fighting against COVID- 19 pandemic, utmost precaution needs to be taken to avoid such incidents in future," he said in the letter.

"I would urge you to ensure compliance of above advisory and direct all concerned to immediately re-inspect, re-check all hospitals and nursing homes from the point of view of fire protection and means of escape to prevent recurrence of such fire incidences in future," he added.

The home secretary said the directorate general (fire services, civil defence and home guards) in the Ministry of Home Affairs has been issuing necessary advisories at regular intervals to the states and UTs so that suitable directions may be issued to ensure compliance of fire safety guidelines and various codes and standards, and to ensure that proper fire safety measures are in place in all the buildings, including hospitals and nursing homes.

Bhalla said in addition, guidelines have also been issued by the National Disaster Management Authority for hospital safety, laying down the provisions to establish the minimum requirements for a reasonable degree of safety from fire emergencies in hospitals.

"An action-taken report may kindly be shared with this ministry at the earliest," he wrote in the letter.