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30 children, including newborns, die in India hospital

More than 30 children have died at a government-run hospital in northern India in the past 48 hours, allegedly due to lack of oxygen supply, which was cut off due to non-payment of bills.

The children were admitted at the Baba Raghav Das Hospital in Gorakhpur district of Uttar Pradesh, India's most populous state. Of the 30 deaths, 17 took place in the neonatal intensive care unit.

"As of today, August 11, there have been seven deaths. There were 23 deaths on 10th. There were nine deaths on the 9th, 12 deaths on the 8th and nine deaths on the 7th. There are various reasons for these deaths. There were children who were admitted in natal ICUs and there were deaths due to AES [Acute Encephalitis Syndrome] and some were non encephalitis-related deaths," the state's Health Minister Sidharth Nath Singh told the India Today news channel.

 AES is characterized by fever and neurological conditions such as disorientation, delirium, or coma. The disease has been mainly caused by viruses in India.

An AES patient in a hospital

Encephalitis claims the lives of hundreds of children every year in India.

Multiple local media reports said many of the children died after the company which was supplying liquid oxygen stopped the service, apparently over non-payment of dues. This prompted the government to say on Twitter that "No patient has died at the BRD medical college due to shortage of oxygen supplies." 

Singh accepted that there was a payment issue with the liquid oxygen supplier but added that there was no shortage of gas cylinders at the hospital, which were used as back-ups. Still, he said the matter was being investigated.

The hospital is the largest in Gorakhpur district, which for years has been the parliamentary constituency of the state's Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath.

Gorakhpur has seen more than 100 deaths due to AES this year alone. The disease claims the lives of hundreds of children every year in this part of India.

ap/msh (AFP, dpa, Reuters)

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