The fire started at about 11:50 am due to a short circuit in the male medical ward' on the first floor of Murshidabad Medical College and Hospital in Baharampur, causing panic among people, said Director of Health Services BR Satpathy.

"There was a mad scramble and two women got seriously injured in the stampede. Both have died. One of them was an attendant and the other a patient's relative," he said.  Some others suffered minor injuries and were administered first aid, Satpathy said.

Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has deputed Chandrima Bhattacharya, chairperson, West Bengal Medical Services Corporation, to the spot.

"The fire was controlled very fast and now the situation was returning to normal," he said. The paediatric and male medical wards were evacuated after the fire started.

"There was no damage to the paediatric ward. The children admitted there have been taken back to the ward. Fifty per cent of patients are also back in the male medical ward," said Satpathy. A committee has been formed to probe the reasons behind the fire.

"They will submit a report after considering all aspects. We have to see whether fire safety has been compromised," he said.

"We have to see how there was a short circuit in the air-conditioned machine. The fire fighting system available there and whether the staffs were trained in combating fire, these aspects are also being looked into."  Eyewitnesses said some relatives of the patients in the paediatric ward even climbed trees and broke window panes to rescue babies trapped in the fire in Sick Newborn Care Units.

"I don't know how the fire broke out. The entire area was filled with smoke. The attendants were rushing down with patients to save them. I don't know how many have died. The locks of emergency doors couldn't be opened," said a distraught attendant.

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