113 people were killed and more than 150 injured in a fire at a wedding ceremony in Iraq


developing story,

According to initial reports, fireworks used during the wedding ceremony may be responsible for the fire.

At least 113 people have been killed and more than 150 injured in a fire at a wedding in Iraq’s northern province of Nineveh, local authorities and emergency services said.

The deputy governor of Nineveh, Hassan al-Alaq, told Reuters news agency that 113 people have been confirmed dead so far. The fire broke out at around 10:45 local time (19:45 GMT) on Tuesday night.

Nineveh’s provincial governor, Najim al-Jubouri, warned early Wednesday that there was no final death toll from the fire, suggesting the death toll could still rise.

“All efforts are being made to provide assistance to those affected by the unfortunate accident,” Saif al-Badr, a spokesman for Iraq’s health ministry, said.

Iraq’s state-run INA news agency earlier reported that more than 150 people were also injured in the fire, which engulfed a ceremony hall where a wedding was being held in the province’s Hamdania district. Hamdania is located outside the northern city of Mosul, about 400 kilometers (about 250 miles) northwest of the capital, Baghdad.

Iraq’s civil defense says preliminary reports indicate that fireworks used during the celebration may have caused the fire. “Preliminary information indicates that fireworks were used during the wedding, which ignited the fire in the hall,” civil defense officials said in a statement early Wednesday.

Security forces stand guard with ambulances at a hospital where people have been taken for treatment after a fire broke out at a wedding ceremony in Nineveh province, Iraq on September 27, 2023. [Khalid Al-Mousily/Reuters]

Al Jazeera’s Mahmoud Abdulwahid, reporting from Baghdad, said fireworks are a common feature of wedding celebrations in Iraq and that around 1,000 people were reportedly attending the ceremony when the fire broke out.

Abdulwahid said combustible materials used in the construction of the event hall were suspected to have contributed to the massive fire, adding that the building lacked “adequate safety measures” including emergency exits.

Iraq’s civil defense also reported the presence of prefabricated panels in the event hall that were “highly flammable and in violation of safety standards.”

“The fire caused parts of the roof to collapse due to the use of highly flammable, low-cost construction materials,” civil defense officials said in a statement.

Photos from the aftermath of the blaze show emergency workers scrambling over debris and a collapsed roof with twisted and charred metal in the charred event hall.

An emergency worker walks through the rubble at the site of a fire at a wedding ceremony in Hamdania district, Nineveh province, Iraq on September 27, 2023. [Khalid Al-Mousily/Reuters]

Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammad Shia al-Sudani ordered an investigation into the fire and asked the country’s interior and health authorities to provide assistance, his office said in a statement online.

Video clips posted on social media and allegedly taken moments after the fire broke out showed burning pieces of paneling falling from the ceiling of the function hall. Wedding guests are also seen jumping off tables and trying to run to safety.

Iraq’s health ministry said “medical aid trucks” from Baghdad and other provinces had been dispatched to Nineveh.

Nineveh Province, Iraq [Al Jazeera]

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