Ten newborns die in Indian hospital fire

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Ten newborn infants have died in a fire at a state-run hospital in western India.

There were 17 infants in the unit for sick newborn babies when the fire broke out in the early hours of Saturday at the Bhandara District General Hospital in Maharashtra state, around 1000km south of New Delhi.

Seven died due to smoke inhalation, and three from burn injuries, Maharashtra health minister Rajesh Tope told reporters.

Seven babies were rescued by nurses and ward staff.

All the infants were aged between a few days and three months, Bhandara district health official Prashant Uike said.

The government has ordered a probe into the incident and a safety audit of all neo-natal care units in the state.

Initial reports indicated that the fire may have been caused by a short circuit in one of the incubators, Tope said, adding "the staff said the ward quickly filled with lots of black smoke".

Legal requirements for a post-mortem had been waived and the bodies of the children handed to their families, who would be given compensation of 500,000 rupees ($A8,774) each, Tope said.