Catastrophic wedding in Iraq | Washington Hispanic

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At least 100 people were killed and another 150 injured in a fire during a wedding in a party hall in a small town in northern Iraq, health authorities reported Wednesday.

At the main hospital in Karakosh, the small Christian town where the disaster occurred, an AFP photographer saw numerous ambulances arriving with their sirens on in the middle of the night.

Dozens of people gathered in the center's patio, including relatives of the victims and volunteers who wanted to donate blood, according to the same source.

The crowd was also gathering in front of the open doors of a refrigerated truck carrying several body bags, this photographer noted.

The crowd was also gathering in front of the open doors of a refrigerated truck carrying several body bags, this photographer noted.

Karakosh, also known as Bajdida and Al Hamdaniya, is located in the Nineveh province of northern Iraq, 51 km southeast of the metropolis Mosul.

The health authorities of Nineveh "listed 100 dead and more than 150 injured in the fire in a wedding hall in Al Hamdaniya," noted the official Iraqi press agency INA in a "preliminary assessment."

The spokesman for the Ministry of Health, Saif al Badr, confirmed these figures to AFP. "The majority of the injured suffer burns and suffocation," explained this spokesperson, pointing out that there were also avalanches of people due to the fire.

– “We were drowning” –

The Iraqi Red Crescent indicated that it had registered more than 450 victims, but did not specify how many of these had died.

The civil defense services detected the presence of prefabricated panels "highly flammable and contrary to safety regulations" in the party room where the catastrophe occurred.

"Preliminary information indicates that fireworks were used during a wedding, which triggered a fire in the room," they explained in a statement.

The flames caused "certain parts of the roof to fall, due to the use of highly flammable and inexpensive construction materials," said the same source.

The danger was worsened "by the toxic gas emissions linked to the combustion of these panels," they added.

The married couple "were dancing a slow dance, the fireworks began to rise to the ceiling, the entire room caught fire," said Rania Waad, 17, with her voice broken by sobs, while she waited with her sister in a hospital. from Karakosh to have a burn on his hand treated.

According to her, the guests were "very numerous." "We didn't see anything, we were drowning, we didn't know how to get out," she said.

Among the ruins of the party hall, the AFP photographer could see lifeguards and police inspecting the place with flashlights and the light of mobile phones, where metal chairs and debris were piled up under scrap metal hanging from the ceiling.

– Nine arrested –

In a brief statement, the Prime Minister, Mohamed Shia al Sudani, called on those responsible for Health and the Interior to "mobilize all rescue efforts" to help the victims.

The Ministry of Health announced the "sending of medical aid trucks" from Baghdad and other provinces in the country and assured that its teams in Nineveh were dedicated to "healing the wounded."

For his part, the spokesman for the Ministry of the Interior, General Saad Maan, informed AFP that "nine employees were arrested" and that "four arrest warrants were issued against the owners" of the celebration hall.

Respect for safety regulations in Iraq is lax, both in the construction and transport sectors.

The country, with deteriorated infrastructure after decades of conflict, is regularly the scene of fires or fatal accidents.

In July 2021, a fire in an anti-Covid unit at a hospital in southern Iraq cost the lives of more than 60 people.

Months earlier, in April of that year, an explosion of oxygen bottles also caused a fire in another hospital in Baghdad dedicated to the treatment of covid where more than 80 people died.

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