updated 1/31/2009 6:01:12 AM ET 2009-01-31T11:01:12

Five newborns were killed and another was injured after a short circuit sparked a fire in the hospital maternity ward where they were being treated in northern India

The blaze began before dawn at the state-run Rajendra hospital in the city of Patiala, apparently after a machine that helps treat jaundiced babies by exposing them to a special light malfunctioned, said police officer Pritpal Singh.

Five other newborns were rescued, including one that suffered burns. All the babies were under a week old and receiving treatment under the phototherapy machine.

"There was a short circuit in the tubes of the machines," hospital superintendent Surinder Singh told a local television station. "The staff reacted immediately, but unfortunately five babies could not be saved."

Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal said an investigation into the incident has been ordered and victims' families are to receive compensation of 100,000 rupees ($2,040).

Patiala is some 30 miles south of Chandigarh, the capital of the north Indian state of Punjab.

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