At least a hundred people were killed and 150 others injured in a fire during a wedding at a ballroom in a small town in northern Iraq, health officials said.
The medical services of the province of Nineveh "listed 100 dead and more than 150 injured in the fire in a wedding hall in Al Hamdaniya," said the official Iraqi press agency INA, clarifying that it was a "preliminary" balance.
A spokesman for the Ministry of Health confirmed these figures to AFP.
At the main hospital in Hamdaniya, a mostly Christian area east of the metropolis of Mosul, an AFP photographer saw numerous ambulances arrive with sirens blaring.
Dozens of people gathered in the courtyard of the center, including relatives of the victims and volunteers who wanted to donate blood, according to the same source.
The crowd also gathered in front of the open doors of a refrigerated truck carrying several body bags, the photographer said.
In a statement, the civil defense services reported the presence of prefabricated panels "highly flammable and contrary to safety standards" in the party room where the catastrophe occurred.
"The fire caused certain parts of the roof to fall, due to the use of highly flammable and inexpensive construction materials," the same source said.
"Preliminary information indicates that fireworks were used during a wedding, which triggered a fire in the hall," they added in their statement.
Respect for safety standards in Iraq is lax in both the construction and transport sectors.
The country, with deteriorating infrastructure after decades of conflict, is regularly the scene of fires or fatal accidents.