Horror as bride, groom and guests die in wedding fire
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Featured Image Credit: ZAID AL-OBEIDI/AFP via Getty Images
At least 100 people, including a newlywed bride and groom, have died after a fire broke out at a wedding in northern Iraq, state media has reported.
It is unclear how the fire started in the city of Al-Hamdaniya, just 30km south-east of Mosul, however early reports suggest the blaze broke out after fireworks were lit.
The bride and groom were slow-dancing when one survivor recalled seeing ‘fireworks started to climb to the ceiling (and_ the whole hall went up in flames’.
Raniaa Waad, 17, told news agency AFP: “We couldn’t see anything. We were suffocating, we didn’t know how to get out.”
Raniaa’s account supports the preliminary findings into the cause of the fire, however investigations are still ongoing.
Rescue operations including ambulances and medical crews were launched in Iraq following the deaths, with 150 people injured in the fire.
Another survivor recalled seeing the flames as the fire engulfed the wedding hall.
"We saw the fire pulsating, coming out of the hall. Those who managed got out and those who didn't got stuck," Imad Yohana, a 34-year-old who escaped the fire told the Reuters news agency.
"Even those who made their way out were broken."
A health official eventually confirmed that the newlyweds had lost their lives in the fire, which broke out at around 10:45pm local time (07:45pm GMT) on Tuesday (26 September).
Ahmed Dubardani, deputy head of the Nineveh health directorate, told reporters at a press conference that the bride and groom lost their lives and at least 50 people were in a critical condition, with at least half suffering burns.
"The majority of the wounded were completely burned. And some others had 50 to 60 percent of their bodies burned. This is not good at all," he told reporters. The majority of the victims are young men and women.
Burns and asphyxiation (lack of oxygen) led to the deaths, Iraq’s health ministry spokesman, Saif Al-Badr said. The fire also led to crowd crushes.
Officials have said that flammable panels at the wedding venue might have fuelled the flames.
Anxious relatives gathered outside a local hospital where their relatives were being treated following the blaze. Locals have also gathered at the hospital to donate blood.
Iraqi civil defence authorities said in a statement that the fire was compounded by the ‘release of toxic gases linked to the combustion of the panels’, which contained plastic.
Iraq’s prime minister Mohammed Shia’ Al Sudani has ordered an investigation into the fire.