More than 100 people lost their lives after a fire broke out at a wedding reception in Iraq. The party, which took place at a banqueting hall in Ninevan province, included indoor fireworks, which were part of the celebration.
As the bride and groom finished their slow dance, however, the fireworks set the venue on fire as it was covered with highly flammable plastic and metal composite panels.
Video footage of the incident, which was released by a local news channel, showed the fireworks shooting up and engulfing a chandelier in flames. Wedding goers were understandably stunned by the sight. Within seconds, however, guests began to escape the hall as flaming debris came falling from the ceiling. According to media reports, both the bride and groom survived but suffered injuries.
One relative who also survived the fire said they were able to “miraculously leave the [hall]”. They also confirmed that the groom and bride survived, though “their psychological condition was very [bad].”
According to civil defense authorities, the prefabricated panels inside the venue were “highly flammable” and had released a toxic gas, which exacerbated the flames. They also emphasized that the highly flammable plastic panels violated safety standards.
Rania Waad, one of the guests at the wedding, sustained a burn to her hand. Another guest, Imad Yohana, who also escaped the flames, said they “saw the fire pulsating out of the [building]”. She also added that many people had gotten stuck inside and were unable to get out.
In Iraq and other Middle Eastern countries, large wedding halls are easily recognizable as they are often adorned with neon lights.
So far, the Ninevah health department has put the death toll at 114. However, many more were injured in the inferno, including children. According to Saif al-Badr, the Health ministry spokesperson, they are currently “doing everything they can to provide relief to those who were involved in the incident.” She also revealed that the majority of victims suffered from asphyxiation and burns.
A clip of the aftermath showed the gutted building, blackened by the flames with a collapsed roof. It was later confirmed that the ceiling had fallen down as it was made with low-cost, highly flammable construction materials.
Witnesses said the wedding hall went up in flames at approximately 10:45 p.m., and that hundreds were in the building at the time.
At the Hamdaniya hospital, dozens gathered to donate blood to the victims. According to health official Ahmed Dubardani, most of the individuals transported to the hospital suffered significant burns – many of which covered their entire bodies.
Mohamed Shia al-Sudani, the prime minister of Iraq, also said in a brief statement that they will be mobilizing all rescue efforts to support those who were injured in the incident. He also announced that an investigation is taking place.