More than 100 people killed in fire at Iraqi wedding
Iraq has declared three days of national mourning after more than 100 people died after a fire broke out during a wedding celebration.
A further 150 people were injured in the blaze, the cause of which is unclear – however, there have been reports that fireworks or flares had been lit just before the disaster.
Nine people who worked at the venue, the Al Haitham Hall, in Qaraqosh, northern Iraq, have been arrested.
Major General Saad Maan, the director of the Department of Relations and Information in the Interior Ministry, said further arrest warrants were issued against four other employees.
He said the reasons for the tragedy were "the lack of health and safety measures, the flammable materials used in the building and apparently an indoor firework".
The district’s mayor, Issam Behnam, said 85 people from Hamdaniya alone had died, including some of his own relatives.
Guests described how bunting on the ceiling of the building caught alight after flares were fired during a dance by the bride and groom. A typical Iraqi wedding tradition, the flares are usually used outside.
Others said the power blew out as soon as the blaze began, making it harder for people to escape.
One guest, Gorges Yohana, told The New York Times the fire had moved with astonishing speed. “The roof caught fire within three seconds, and the fire was very big,” he said. “I helped, like, seven or eight people, but I couldn’t help more because I was choking from the smoke and my eyes were stinging and streaming.”
Ahmed Dubardani, deputy head of the Nineveh health directorate, said at least fifty people were in critical condition, with at least half having suffered burns.
"The majority of the wounded were completely burned. And some others had 50 to 60 percent of their bodies burned. This is not good at all," he said.
The UN Assistance Mission for Iraq said on X, formerly Twitter, that they are "shocked and hurt" by the huge loss of life and injuries in the fire.
"Huge tragedy. Our sincere condolences to the families who lost loved ones. We wish those injured a speedy recovery," the post read.
Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al Sudani called for an investigation into the cause of the fire.
Some have speculated that there could have been flammable materials in the building which contributed to the spread of the fire. Flammable building components have contributed to numerous fires in recent years.
In London, 72 people died in a fire in the 24-storey Grenfell Tower block, after the blaze was exacerbated by flammable cladding on the building. The disaster led to a major review which saw flammable aluminium composite cladding stripped from buildings in England and Wales.
In July 2021, 60 people died in a fire in the Covid unit of a hospital in the south of Iraq.
The wedding party took place in a Christian area of Iraq. Christians in the north of the country were driven out after the region was taken over by Islamic State in 2014, but have returned since the militants were driven out three years later.
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