IRAQ: In a heartbreaking incident that unfolded in Iraq's northern Nineveh province, a blazing inferno tore through a joyous wedding gathering, leaving a devastating toll in its wake. Local authorities and emergency services have reported at least 113 fatalities and more than 150 individuals suffering from injuries.
The devastating fire broke out at approximately 10:45 pm local time (19:45 GMT) on a fateful Tuesday night, engulfing an event hall located in Hamdaniyah district, just outside the northern city of Mosul. This district, situated some 400 kilometers (about 250 miles) northwest of the capital Baghdad, became the site of an unimaginable tragedy.
Initial reports indicate that fireworks, a customary feature of Iraqi wedding celebrations, may have ignited the blaze. The festivities, attended by approximately 1,000 people, were disrupted as flames quickly consumed the venue. Tragically, the structure's flammable construction materials and a lack of adequate safety measures, including emergency exits, exacerbated the situation.
Further complicating matters, prefabricated panels within the event hall were found to be highly flammable and in violation of safety standards. Their combustion released toxic gases, compounding the danger and chaos within the hall.
Heart-wrenching images from the aftermath reveal the heroic efforts of emergency workers navigating through debris and a collapsed roof, marred by twisted and charred metal.
In response to this catastrophe, Iraq's Prime Minister, Mohammed Shia al-Sudani, has ordered a thorough investigation into the incident. He has also directed the country's interior and health ministries to mobilize relief efforts for the victims.
Most of the injured victims are grappling with severe burns and asphyxiation, with reports of crowd crushes adding to the horror of the scene. Video clips circulated on social media depict the harrowing moments leading up to the fire's eruption, with burning panel pieces falling from the ceiling and wedding guests scrambling for safety.
Additionally, Kurdish television news channel Rudaw aired video footage reportedly captured by a wedding guest, showcasing fireworks triggering a chandelier overhead to ignite. The bride and groom, seen on the dance floor as the fire began, were among the shocked witnesses to this tragic turn of events, although their condition remains uncertain.