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Senegal President, Macky Sall has suspended his health minister on Thursday, May 26 as the country grieved the deaths of 11 newborn babies in a hospital fire caused by an electrical short circuit.

The tragedy in the western city of Tivaouane late Wednesday was the latest in a string of hospital deaths that have revealed the country’s healthcare system’s flaws.

Sall had previously tweeted about the incident and declared three days of national mourning.

He commented, “I have just learned with grief and dismay about the loss of 11 newborn babies in the fire at the public hospital’s neonatal section.”

“I extend my heartfelt condolences to their mothers and relatives.”

One of the distraught mothers shouted out for her kid outside the Mame Abdou Aziz Sy Dabakh Hospital in Tivaouane, a city of 40,000 people.

She shouted out, “Where is Mohamed?”

Mohamed’s 54-year-old father Alioune Diouf said his baby son was transported to the hospital 10 days ago and baptized on Monday.

Demba Diop, the mayor of the city, said the fire was started by a short circuit and spread swiftly.

He refuted claims made by relatives at the hospital and on social media that the babies were left alone, claiming that a midwife and nurse were present on Wednesday evening.

He claimed outside the hospital door, “There was a boom and an explosion that lasted three minutes at most.”

“The fire department arrived five minutes later. “Fire extinguishers were used.”

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

“There was no negligence,” Diop insisted.

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

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Emilio Lejit

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