At least 113 killed as fire engulfs crowded wedding hall in Iraq - GulfToday

At least 113 killed as fire engulfs crowded wedding hall in Iraq


Relatives mourn over a coffin during the funeral of victims who were killed when a fire ripped through a wedding hall in Qaraqosh, Iraq, on Wednesday. AFP

At least 113 people were killed and more than 150 injured when a fire broke out during a wedding at an event hall in the northern Iraqi town of Qaraqosh, officials said early on Wednesday.

Nineveh province Deputy Governor Hassan Al Allaf told reporters 113 people had been confirmed dead. The head of the province's Red Crescent branch said the death toll was not final but that it "exceeds hundreds injured and dozens killed".

At the main hospital in the predominantly Christian town east of Mosul, an AFP photographer saw ambulances arriving with sirens blaring and dozens of people gathering in the courtyard to donate blood.

Others could be seen gathering in front of the open doors of a refrigerated truck loaded with black body bags.

Citing a "preliminary tally", Iraq's official INA news agency reported that health authorities in Nineveh province had "counted 100 dead and more than 150 injured in the fire at a marriage hall in Hamdaniyah", as the town is also known.

The casualty toll was confirmed to AFP by health ministry spokesman Saif Al Badr.

 An Iraqi girl with burns in her hand lies on a bed in a hospital.AP

Badr said most of the injured were being treated for burns or oxygen deprivation, adding that there had also been crowd crushes at the scene.

In a statement, civil defence authorities reported the presence of prefabricated panels inside the event hall that were "highly flammable and contravened safety standards".

The danger was compounded by the "release of toxic gases linked to the combustion of the panels", which contained plastic.

"The fire caused some parts of the ceiling to fall due to the use of highly flammable, low-cost construction materials," the statement said, with "preliminary information" suggesting fireworks were to blame for the blaze.

 'We were suffocating' 

Wedding guest Rania Waad, who sustained a burn to her hand, said that as the bride and groom "were slow dancing, the fireworks started to climb to the ceiling (and) the whole hall went up in flames".

"We couldn't see anything," the 17-year-old said, choking back sobs. "We were suffocating, we didn't know how to get out."

Medical staff taking an injured person inside a hospital in Hamdaniya. AP

Emergency crews were seen sifting through the charred remains of the event hall early Wednesday, inspecting the scene by flashlight.

In a brief statement, Prime Minister Mohamed Shia al-Sudani called on the health and interior ministers to "mobilise all rescue efforts" to help the victims of the fire.

Soldiers and emergency responders gather around ambulances carrying wounded people after a fire broke out during a wedding at an event hall. AFP

The health ministry said "medical aid trucks" had been dispatched to the area from Baghdad and other provinces, adding that its teams in Nineveh had been mobilised to care for the injured.

Agence-France Presse

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