A massive fire broke out at a wedding hall in Iraq’s northern Nineveh province, killing at least 113 people and injuring more than 150 others, officials and media reports said on Wednesday.
Fireworks trigger inferno
The fire started around 10:45 pm local time (19:45 GMT) on Tuesday night, when fireworks were used during a wedding celebration at a large event hall in Hamdaniyah district, about 400 km (250 miles) northwest of Baghdad. The fireworks ignited the flammable material used in the construction of the hall, causing it to collapse and trap hundreds of guests inside.
Preliminary information indicates that fireworks were used during a wedding, which triggered a fire in the hall, Iraq’s civil defence said in a statement. The fire caused some parts of the ceiling to fall due to the use of highly flammable, low-cost construction materials.
Video clips posted on social media showed burning pieces of panelling falling from the ceiling of the hall, while people screamed and ran for their lives. Some witnesses said there were no proper safety measures in place, such as emergency exits or fire extinguishers.
Death toll expected to rise
Nineveh Deputy Governor Hassan al-Allaq told Reuters news agency that 113 people had been confirmed dead so far, but warned that the death toll could rise as rescue workers continued to search for survivors among the rubble.
All efforts are being made to provide relief to those affected by the unfortunate accident, Iraq’s Health Ministry spokesman Saif al-Badr said.
Iraq’s Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani ordered an investigation into the fire and asked the country’s Interior and Health officials to provide relief, his office said in a statement.
Ambulances and medical crews from both federal Iraqi authorities and Iraq’s semi-autonomous Kurdistan region were dispatched to the site, according to official statements.
One of the worst fire disasters in Iraq
The fire at the wedding hall is one of the worst fire disasters in Iraq’s recent history, surpassing the death toll from a blaze at a COVID-19 hospital in Nasiriyah city in July, which killed at least 92 people.
Iraq has been struggling with poor infrastructure, corruption and lack of safety standards for years, especially after decades of war and sanctions. Many public buildings and facilities are poorly maintained and do not comply with fire regulations.
The tragedy has sparked outrage and grief among Iraqis, who expressed their condolences and anger on social media. Some called for accountability and justice for the victims and their families, while others blamed the government for failing to protect its citizens.