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Dhaka Tribune

113 dead, 150 injured in Iraq wedding inferno

  • authorities found flammable non-compliant panels inside the hall
  • Interior Ministry issues four arrest warrants for hall owners
  • PM orders probe and relief from ministries
Update : 27 Sep 2023, 04:42 PM

More than 100 people were killed and 150 injured in a fire at a wedding party in Iraq's Nineveh province that left civil defense searching the charred skeleton of a building for survivors into the early hours of Wednesday.

Nineveh Deputy Governor Hassan al-Allaq told Reuters that 113 people had been confirmed dead, with state media putting the death toll at least 100, with 150 people injured.

The fire ripped through a large events hall in the district of Hamdaniya after flares were lit during the celebration, causing a fire in the ceiling, Interior Minister Abdul Amir al-Shammari said according to state media.

Civil defense authorities reported the use of prefabricated panels that were "highly flammable and contravened safety standards" inside the hall. 

"The fire caused some parts of the ceiling to fall due to the use of highly flammable, low-cost construction materials," a statement from the civil defense authorities said.

Hamdaniya is mostly Christian and the area had already suffered during its occupation by the Islamic State group from 2014-17.

A video of the event, posted on social media but not yet verified by Reuters, appeared to show the flares suddenly catching a glittering ceiling decoration that burst into flames, as sounds of excitement turned rapidly to panic.

Another video that Reuters has not yet verified showed a couple dancing in wedding clothes when burning material began dropping to the floor.

The Interior Ministry said it had issued four arrest warrants for the owners of the wedding hall, state media reported, and President Abdul Latif Rashid called for an investigation.

"All efforts are being made to provide relief to those affected by the unfortunate accident," a spokesperson for the Health Ministry said.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani has ordered a probe into the blaze and has asked the country's interior and health ministries to provide relief, a statement published by his office said. 

"We saw the fire pulsating, coming out of the hall. Those who managed got out and those who didn't got stuck," said Imad Yohana, a 34-year-old who escaped the inferno.

Video from a Reuters correspondent at the site showed firefighters clambering over the charred wreckage of the building, shining lights over smoldering ruins.

Preliminary information indicated that the building was made of highly flammable construction materials, contributing to its rapid collapse, state media said.

Ambulances and medical crews were dispatched to the site by federal Iraqi authorities and Iraq's semi-autonomous Kurdistan region, according to official statements.

Eyewitnesses at the site said the building caught fire at around 19:45 GMT and that hundreds of people were in attendance at the time of the incident.

The provincial governor of Nineveh, Najim al-Jubouri, said some of the injured had been transferred to regional hospitals.

He added that there were no final casualty figures yet from the fire, which suggests the death toll could still increase.

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