The fire in Tetovo was driven in part by explosions, according to Prime Minister Zoran Zaev, who immediately opened an investigation. The prime minister’s office said the cause of the fire had yet to be determined, and announced three days of national mourning.
Sasho Trajcevski, the deputy commander of the Tetovo fire department, told the local television station 360 that the plastic elements in the modular building had fed the flames.
In a statement posted on social media, Mr. Zaev called the fire a “great tragedy” and offered his condolences to the families of the dead.
“The fire has been extinguished, but many lives have also been extinguished,” he said, adding that emergency workers had done their best to save people.
He pledged that the authorities would determine the cause of the fire, noting that investigators were already at the scene. “This is a truly tragic event and I can assure you that the entire state leadership is committed to rapidly resolving this situation,” he said.
International investigators will also take part in assessing the causes of the fire. After an emergency government meeting on Thursday, Mr. Zaev said that the government had accepted an offer from NATO allies to send experts to the country.
North Macedonia, where just 27 percent of about two million residents have been fully vaccinated, has seen a wave of coronavirus infections since August. The country had put in place 19 temporary hospitals to deal with the influx of patients during the pandemic.