By Associated Press Writer
updated 5/10/2010 11:56:00 AM ET 2010-05-10T15:56:00

A fire destroyed a century-old building at Guyana's largest private hospital on Monday, forcing officials to close the facility and move some 130 patients elsewhere.

People screamed as nurses ran out with patients in wheelchairs and rolled out others in beds with an IV in their arm. But no injuries were reported.

Police said they are investigating what caused the fire at St. Joseph's Mercy Hospital behind the U.S. Embassy in the South American country's capital of Georgetown. It began around 7 a.m. and was extinguished about an hour later, but it had already consumed the main wooden building that houses intensive care patients.

Nurses quickly evacuated about 30 intensive-care patients, and 100 patients in other buildings were moved because of concern about smoke and water damage.

"Their operations are crippled," Health Minister Leslie Ramsammy told The Associated Press. "The facility is no longer useable, but government will help them rebuild."

Patients were transferred to other private facilities and to the state-run Georgetown Hospital, where they will receive free treatment until they are discharged, Ramsammy said.

He also asked that health officials donate medicine and other supplies to hospitals taking the new patients.

Ramsammy's own health ministry headquarters were destroyed by a fire last year that police said was arson. Wanted bulletins have been issued for four men, and two are in jail awaiting trial on arson-related charges.

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