July 14, 2024

A massive fire has turned a wedding into a tragedy, and authorities say the death toll may still rise.

Iraq has woken up to the news of a huge fire at a wedding celebration that killed at least 100 and injured at least 150.

Updates are still coming in about the blaze on Tuesday night, which is believed to have been caused by fireworks.

Here’s everything we know so far about it:

What happened and when?

  • A fire broke out at a wedding party at an event hall in Nineveh governorate, northern Iraq.
  • The fire began at approximately 10:45pm local time (19:45 GMT) on Tuesday.
  • Dozens have been killed or injured, and the wounded are being treated in hospitals across the country.
  • Iraqi authorities have ordered an investigation into the fire.

Where did it happen?

  • The fire occurred in the al-Haitham Hall in the town of Hamdaniyah.
  • The area is a predominantly Christian one just outside Mosul, some 335km (205 miles) northwest of Baghdad.

How many casualties?

  • Nineveh’s Deputy Governor Hassan al-Allaq said at least 100 people have been killed and more than 150 injured.
  • There were about 1,000 guests at the wedding.

What triggered the fire?

  • Apparently, fireworks were used during the celebration, and that was likely the cause of the fire, according to initial reports by Iraq’s civil defence.
  • Kurdish television news channel Rudaw aired footage showing fireworks shooting up from the floor and setting a chandelier aflame.
  • “The entire hall was on fire in seconds,” a man injured in the fire at the hospital told Rudaw.

Could it have been prevented?

  • Flammable material used in the construction of the event hall is suspected to have contributed to the size of the blaze, according to Al Jazeera’s Mahmoud Abdelwahed, reporting from Baghdad.
  • Iraq’s civil defence also said prefabricated panels at the event hall were “highly flammable and contravened safety standards”.
  • The civil defence added that the fire was exacerbated by toxic gas emitted by the “burning of the highly flammable Ecobond plastic panels, which violate safety standards”.
  • Abdelwahed added that the building did not have emergency exits and sources said the hall also did not have equipment to extinguish the fire.
Iraq fire
The body of a victim is transported to a hospital following a fatal fire at a wedding celebration, in Iraq’s Nineveh province [Khalid Al-Mousily/Reuters]

Were the bride and groom among those injured or killed?

  • It is still unconfirmed whether the couple, Haneen and Rivaan, are among those injured or dead.
  • “They were about to do a slow dance and then they lit up this thing for the dance which caught fire,” an injured woman told Rudaw from a hospital gurney.

How have authorities responded?

  • Iraq’s Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani has ordered an investigation into the fire and asked the country’s interior and health ministry officials to provide relief.
  • Operations are reportedly under way to arrest the owner of the banquet hall, according to a news report from Iraq.
  • Al Arabiya news outlet quoted sources saying the owner tried to flee after the deadly incident.
  • Iraq’s Ministry of Health said medical aid trucks have been sent to Nineveh from Baghdad and other provinces.

What was the main cause of injury and death?

  • The majority of the injured are suffering from burns and asphyxiation, the Health Ministry said.
  • “The majority of them were completely burned and some others had 50 to 60 percent of their bodies burned,” said Ahmed Dubardani, a provincial health official.
  • The injured were transferred to hospitals in Nineveh and the Kurdish region of northern Iraq, and some will be taken to Baghdad by the military.
  • Thousands of people are going to donate blood for the injured, according to a local journalist.

Has the burning of similar materials caused fires elsewhere?

  • Experts say the cladding that caught fire was not up to stricter safety standards as it is often put on buildings without any breaks to slow or halt a possible blaze.
  • This was also the case in the 2017 Grenfell Fire in London that killed 72 people, as well as multiple high-rise fires in the United Arab Emirates in November of last year.
Iraq fire
Iraqi security men inspect the scene of the wedding hall fire in Hamdaniya [Mohamed Saif/EPA-EFE]

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