A fire at a wedding reception in Iraq has killed at least 114 people and injured 200 others. The governor of the northern province of Nineveh, Najim al-Jaburi, said this on Wednesday night. Health Ministry spokesman Saif al-Badr spoke of 100 dead and 150 injured. Pictures of the disaster showed a collapsed and burned-out hall in the town of Al-Hamdanija.
In videos on social media that are supposed to show moments before the fire, burning parts of the room paneling appear to fall from the ceiling. Wedding guests jump up from tables and try to get to safety. The wedding couple on the dance floor looks as if they are in shock. In other videos, the wedding party can be seen shortly beforehand dancing and chatting at tables. Survivors said on television afterwards that the bride and groom had survived.
The civil defense explained that the hall used for weddings was equipped with highly flammable cladding. This violated security requirements and did not have a mandatory alarm system. “The fire led to the partial collapse of the hall because highly flammable, cheap building materials were used, which collapse within minutes in the event of a fire,” said the civil protection authority.
Rescue workers searched for survivors under the rubble of the burned-out hall. Crowds of people gathered in front of the scene of the accident at night. Local television stations showed images of corpses covered with sheets in the street and ambulances. Health Ministry spokesman Saif al-Badr said early this morning that the situation was under control.
Up to 1,000 people were in the hall when the fire occurred, MP Ichlas al-Dulaimi told Rudaw. Walls and ceilings collapsed. Families would search for their loved ones and hospitals would treat many injured people with burns. She spoke of a “big disaster”.
Al-Hamdaniya is located near Mosul in the northwest of the country and about five hours' drive from the capital Baghdad. It initially remained unclear why highly flammable material was presumably used in the construction of the hall. The rampant corruption and mismanagement in Iraq also affect the construction sector. Some eyewitnesses said that fireworks started the fire, but there was no official confirmation of this.
Iraq's Prime Minister Mohammed al-Sudani ordered the Interior and Health Ministries to provide all possible assistance to those affected. Al-Sudani also called Governor Al-Jaburi that night to inquire about the effects of the fire, state agency INA reported.