Over 100 Dead, 150 Injured in Tragic Fire at Wedding Reception

A tragic fire at a wedding reception in Hamdaniya, a district in Iraq’s northern Nineveh province, has claimed the lives of over 100 people and injured 150 more, sparking an outpouring of global condolences. The fire, which engulfed the hall in mere seconds, was reportedly ignited by indoor fireworks set off prior to the bride and groom’s first dance.

Footage aired by Kurdish news outlet Rudaw depicted the indoor ignition of fireworks that subsequently set a chandelier ablaze. Additional footage from local television networks showed the bride and groom on the dance floor as the fire erupted on Tuesday night, visibly shocked by the sight of the burning debris. Reports indicate that the newlyweds survived the incident, albeit with burn injuries.

A family member who survived the incident recounted the harrowing experience to Iraq’s Channel 1. The individual described the difficulty of the couple’s psychological state and the horrific scene at the hospital, where many victims were severely burned or deceased.

The fire’s rapid spread was attributed to the hall’s flammable plastic ceiling panels, which caught fire and filled the venue with toxic smoke. Civil defense authorities noted the presence of these highly flammable prefabricated panels, which they said violated safety standards and exacerbated the fire due to the toxic gas emitted from their combustion.

Rania Waad, a 17-year-old wedding attendee who sustained a hand burn, recalled the terrifying moment when the fireworks reached the ceiling and the entire hall was engulfed in flames. She described a scene of suffocation and confusion as guests struggled to escape.

Large, neon-lit wedding halls are a common sight across Iraq and the Middle East, often hosting crowded celebrations. The health department in Nineveh confirmed the death toll at 114, while the health ministry spokesperson, Saif al-Badr, reported 150 injuries. He assured that all efforts were being made to provide relief to those affected.

The aftermath of the fire revealed a gutted and blackened hall, with the building’s roof collapsed. Witnesses reported that the fire broke out around 10:45pm local time, with hundreds of attendees, including children, present.

The incident has prompted a response from both federal Iraqi authorities and authorities in Iraq’s semi-autonomous Kurdistan region, who dispatched ambulances and medical crews to the scene. The Iraqi prime minister, Mohamed Shia al-Sudani, has called for an investigation and mobilization of all rescue efforts to aid the victims.

This tragic incident underscores the ongoing issues with safety standards in Iraq’s construction and transport sectors. The country, whose infrastructure has been ravaged by decades of conflict, has seen a series of fatal fires and accidents.