Twenty-two COVID-19 patients on ventilators died in a hospital in western India on Wednesday when their oxygen supply was interrupted by a leak in a supply line, officials said.

Suraj Mandhar, the district collector, said the supply of oxygen had since resumed to other patients.

Fire officer Sanjay Bairagi said the leak was halted by the fire service within 15 minutes, but there was supply disruption in the Zakir Hussain Hospital in Nashik, a city in Maharashtra state that is the worst hit by the latest surge in coronavirus cases in the country.

A still image taken from a video filmed outside the Nashik hospital where an oxygen tank leaked. (Supplied)

Television images showed white fumes spreading in the hospital area, causing panic.

Surinder Sonone, a police officer, said the leak occurred in a pipe connecting the oxygen supply to the main tank in the hospital complex.

Five of the 140 COVID-19 patients were shifted to another hospital, he said.

The state government ordered an investigation of the leak, state Health Minister Rajesh Tope said.

India has reported a new record 295,041 coronavirus cases, as the daily death toll crossed 2000 for the first time.

Even with hospitals struggling, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday advised state governments against imposing a harsh lockdown in favour of micro-containment zones as he sought to avoid another economic slump.

The surge in India has exacerbated the slowdown in global vaccination campaigns.

India is a major vaccine producer but has been forced to delay deliveries of shots to focus on its domestic demand.

So far, India has administered over 130 million doses of vaccines in a nation of nearly 1.4 billion since mid-January.

Overall, India has reported more than 15.6 million confirmed cases, the second-highest behind the United States.

The number of deaths stood at 182,553 on Wednesday.

“The volume is humongous,” said Jalil Parkar, a senior pulmonary consultant at the Lilavati Hospital in Mumbai, which had to convert its lobby into an additional COVID ward.

“It’s just like a tsunami.”

“Things are out of control,” said Ramanan Laxminarayan, director of the Center for Disease Dynamics, Economics and Policy in New Delhi.

Municipal workers in personal protective suits sanitize themselves after cremating a COVID-19 victim in Vasai, outskirts of Mumbai, India. (AP)

“There’s no oxygen. A hospital bed is hard to find. It’s impossible to get a test. You have to wait over a week. And pretty much every system that could break down in the healthcare system has broken down,” he said.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressed the nation on Tuesday, acknowledging the country’s “very big battle” against COVID-19.

He appealed to states to “use a lockdown as their last option,” even as the capital, New Delhi, entered its first full day of a week-long lockdown.

A health worker distributes food packets inside a quarantine center for COVID-19 patients, in New Delhi, India. (AP)

On Monday, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal warned failing to halt movement in the city could lead to “tragedy.”

“We don’t want to take Delhi to a place where patients are lying in hospital corridors and people are dying on roads,” Kejriwal said.

On Tuesday, he warned some Delhi hospitals were “left with just a few hours of oxygen,” as authorities scrambled to convert sports complexes, banquet halls, hotels and schools into much-needed treatment centres, with the goal to add 6000 additional beds within days.

“Our healthcare system has reached its limit. It is now in a state of distress. It has not collapsed yet but it is in distress,” Kejriwal said.

“Every healthcare system has its limits. No system can accommodate unlimited patients.”

With shortages being reported across the country, local and state leaders appealed to the federal government for more oxygen and medicine.

Modi appeared to answer those calls on Tuesday, announcing plans for the delivery of 100,000 cylinders of oxygen nationwide, new oxygen production plants, and hospitals dedicated to COVID-19 patients.

But experts fear it’s too little, too late, as positive patients compete for limited resources and mass gatherings threaten to spread the virus even further.

This content first appear on 9news

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