Another 110 people were injured in the blaze at Ibn al-Khatib Hospital, according to ministry spokesman Major General Khaled Al-Muhanna.
The fire started after oxygen tanks exploded, two health officials at the hospital told CNN.
Social media videos showed a chaotic scene as firefighters scrambled to put out the blaze and health workers tried to evacuate patients. People from all over Iraq are referred to the hospital in southeastern Baghdad, including many with Covid-19.
“Civil defense teams are still at the scene of the accident, investigating the causes that led to this fire, which caused the loss of the lives of many of patients and their companions,” according to a statement released by Iraq’s Health Ministry earlier Sunday.
The ministry said health workers and civil defense teams were able to save at least 200 people including patients, and would have an exact number of those killed and wounded at a later time.
Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi said the hospital fire was “a crime” and insisted those responsible should be held accountable, according to a statement released by his office Sunday.
“I have directed an immediate investigation and questioning of the head of the hospital, the head of security and maintenance, and all those concerned until the negligence is found and held accountable,” Al-Kadhimi said in the statement. He added that he had ordered results within 24 hours.
The Prime Minister declared a period of national mourning for those killed.
The United Nations Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Iraq, Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert, expressed “shock and pain at the enormity of the tragic incident” affecting Covid-19 patients at the hospital, according to a statement from her office Sunday.
Twenty-eight of the victims were being treated in Covid-19 ICU wards, said Ali Akram al-Bayati of the Independent High Commission for Human Rights of Iraq (IHCHR).
In a statement, the IHCHR called on the Iraq government to take a “responsible position” following the hospital fire, saying the incident was a “crime against patients who were forced by the severity of the disease as a result of Covid-19 infection to be hospitalized.”
Journalists Aqeel Najim in Baghdad and Eyad Kourdi in Gaziantep contributed to this report.