At least 50 people have died after a fire swept through the coronavirus ward at an Iraqi hospital.

Dozens of people were injured in the blaze at al Hussein Teaching Hospital in the southern city of Nasiryah.

Iraqi health officials said that all of the dead suffered severe burns and a number of survivors were in critical condition on Tuesday.

The cause of the fire was disputed – health officials blamed an electric short circuit but gave no further details.

A provincial health official, however, blamed an exploding oxygen tank.

Major General Khalid Bohan, head of Iraq’s civil defence, also told reporters that the building was constructed from flammable materials and was prone to fire.

The 70-bed coronavirus ward was opened three months ago and it was almost full when the fire started.

More on Iraq

Prime Minister Mustafa al Kadhimi ordered the suspension and arrest of health and civil defence managers in the city, according to his office.

The hospital’s manager was among those being held.

In April, at least 82 coronavirus patients died at a hospital in Baghdad after an oxygen tank exploded.

That fire, which also injured more than 100 people, brought attention to the negligence and mismanagement in Iraq’s hospitals.

Iraq’s healthcare system was struggling to recover from years of war, sanctions and neglect even before the coronavirus pandemic came along.

COVID-19 has killed 17,592 people and more than 1.4 million people have been infected.

There were 9,000 new cases reported on one day last week.