A fire broke out in a hospital on Rome's outskirts, killing at least three people and forcing the overnight evacuation of the smoke-filled facility and its nearly 200 patients, officials said Saturday.
The blaze began in the ground floor emergency room of the St. John the Evangelist Hospital in Tivoli around 11 p.m. Friday, which was a holiday in Italy. The flames spread to a few other wards, “but the smoke went everywhere,” said chief prosecutor Francesco Menditto.
Using fire truck ladders to reach patients on high floors, fire and police rescue crews worked through the night to evacuate the 193 patients. The ones in intensive care were transferred immediately to other hospitals in ambulances, while patients in less critical condition were moved into a nearby municipal gymnasium and then transferred to other facilities, officials said.
The governor of the Lazio region, Francesco Rocca, said from the scene that three people were killed and an investigation would determine the cause of the fire. He acknowledged “notable delays” in updating Italy's aging hospitals with sprinkler systems and other fire safety infrastructure.
The fire department initially said four people were killed. Menditto said during a news conference that only three deaths were directly caused by the blaze, while a fourth death was unrelated to the fire.
He said prosecutors do not believe the fire was set intentionally but the working hypothesis guiding the investigation was related to manslaughter charges, without any suspects identified.