A fire at a hospital in St Petersburg has killed five coronavirus patients who were on ventilators, Russian emergency officials said.

The fire broke out in an intensive care unit at the St George Hospital and was put out within half an hour. It could have been caused by a faulty ventilator, the Interfax news agency reported.

Police in St Petersburg, Russia’s second-largest city, have launched a criminal investigation into the fire.

It was not the first deadly fire in a coronavirus hospital in Russia. On Saturday, a fire in the Spasokukotsky Hospital in Moscow killed one patient.

Russia has reported more than 220,000 confirmed coronavirus cases and 2,009 deaths – numbers that international health officials say significantly undercount the true toll of Russia’s outbreak.

Treating coronavirus patients has put a strain on the country’s vastly outdated healthcare infrastructure.

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