At least 14 people died and more than a dozen were injured after a fire broke out at a makeshift hospital for COVID-19 patients in the North Macedonian town of Tetovo, the country's health minister said on Thursday.
"A total of 14 people died. There were 26 patients in the COVID center during the fire, the other 12 are being treated in the Tetovo hospital and they are out of danger," Venko Filipce said on Twitter.
He added that there are no seriously injured health workers but several with minor injuries.
The cause of the fire was not immediately known.
Health Ministry officials said injured medical staff and patients along with over evacuees were transferred to hospitals in the capital Skopje.
Prime Minister Zoran Zaev said in a Facebook post that a "huge tragedy" occurred in Tetovo.
"The cause of the fire will be determined. The authorities are already on the ground. This is a truly tragic event, and I can assure you that the entire state leadership is committed to resolving this situation quickly. A crisis headquarters in the municipality of Tetova is being developed," he said.
The deputy commander of the Tetovo fire brigade, Saso Trajcevski, said over 30 firefighters took part in extinguishing the fire, where the exact number of victims are not known yet.
Tetovo Mayor Teuta Arifi, who rushed to the scene, also said "data from the hospital and the police on possible victims are still pending."
"I am just sorry. There were sick people receiving treatment," Arifi told reporters.
Meanwhile, Turkish Parliament Speaker Mustafa Sentop expressed his condolences over the deadly fire.
"I wish Allah's mercy to the deceased and a speedy recovery to the injured," he said on Twitter.
Also, Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic held a phone talk with Macedonia’s Zaev, saying: "We are ready to provide any fraternal help because the citizens of Macedonia are not alone in this tragedy."