In a tragic incident, more than 100 people were killed and 150 others sustained injury when a massive fire engulfed a hall hosting a Christian wedding in northern Iraq. According to officials, the death count is likely to increase further. Following the incident, the injured people were rushed to local hospitals for treatment.
The incident occurred in Iraq's Nineveh province in its Hamdaniya area -- a predominantly Christian area near Mosul city. People walking through the scene of the fire could only see charred metal and debris, with the only light coming from television cameras and the lights of onlooker's cell phones.
Iraqi PM orders probe into incident
The health department in Nineveh province confirmed the death toll to 114. Speaking to the local news agency, Health Ministry spokesman Saif al-Badr said that around 150 people have sustained injuries. Meanwhile, Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani ordered an investigation into the incident and asked the country's Interior and Health officials to provide relief, his office said in a statement.
There was no immediate official word on the cause of the blaze but initial reports by the Kurdish television news channel Rudaw suggested fireworks at the venue may have sparked the fire.
Parts of hall collapsed in fire
Civil defence officials quoted by the Iraqi News Agency described the wedding hall's exterior as being decorated with highly flammable cladding that was illegal in the country. “The fire led to the collapse of parts of the hall as a result of the use of highly flammable, low-cost building materials that collapse within minutes when the fire breaks out,” civil defence said.
It wasn't immediately clear why authorities in Iraq allowed the cladding to be used on the hall, though corruption and mismanagement remain endemic two decades after the US-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein. While some types of cladding can be made with fire-resistant material, experts say those that have caught fire at the wedding hall and elsewhere weren't designed to meet stricter safety standards and often were put onto buildings without any breaks to slow or halt a possible blaze.
(With inputs from AP)