Iraq: More than 100 dead in fire at wedding in party hall

At least 100 people died and 150 others were injured in a fire at a wedding hall in northern Iraq, according to a "preliminary assessment" announced Wednesday by health authorities.

A party hall burst into flames after fireworks went off indoors at a wedding in the northern Iraqi town of Qaraqosh (or Hamdaniyah) on September 27, 2023. REUTERS - KHALID AL-MOUSILY

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The images relayed by the witnesses tell the violence of the fire: huge flames devouring at high speed the building, where hundreds of people were gathered to celebrate a Christian wedding. The metal structure of the ceiling collapsed. The newlyweds are among the victims, reports our correspondent in Baghdad, Marie-Charlotte Roupie.

Emergency services from all hospitals in Nineveh, Salah ed-Din and Kirkuk governorates have been mobilized to treat the wounded. Ambulances and medical teams were deployed to the scene by the federal authorities and from Iraqi Kurdistan.

Health authorities in Nineveh, the province where Qaraqosh is located, "have recorded 100 dead and more than 150 injured in the fire of a wedding hall in Hamdaniyah", a Christian town otherwise known as Qaraqosh, on the outskirts of Mosul, the official Iraqi news agency INA reported. Health Ministry spokesman Saif al-Badr confirmed the death toll to AFP. "Most of the injured are suffering from burns and asphyxiation," he said, also reporting stampedes.

The origin of the fire is not yet clearly established, but initial findings reveal that fireworks were set off shortly before the fire began. According to a civil defense official, the building was constructed with high-quality, highly flammable poor quality materials, which would have accelerated the spread of flames. In Iraq, the use of these materials is regularly the cause of serious fires.

Rania Waad, 17, suffers from a burn on her hand and is in Hamdaniyah hospital for treatment with her sister. The bride and groom "danced a slow, the fireworks began to rise towards the ceiling, the whole room ignited," says the teenager in a voice knotted by sobs, adding that the guests were "very numerous". "We couldn't see anything, we suffocated, we didn't know how to get out.


(With AFP)

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