More than 100 dead after fireworks spark blaze that consumes Iraq wedding hall

Authorities have warned the death toll could still rise as 150 others were injured at the Christian wedding in Nineveh province, northern Iraq.

Authorities have warned the death toll could still rise. This report from ITV News Senior International Correspondent, John Irvine, contains distressing details

More than 100 wedding guests have died in Iraq after fireworks set off in celebration prompted a fire that went on to consume a hall packed with people.

Authorities have warned the death toll could still rise as 150 others were injured at the Christian wedding in Nineveh province, northern Iraq.

They also said that flammable building materials also contributed to the disaster.

On Wednesday crowds of people were seen searching through the wreckage looking for remains of loved ones, many were too burned to be identified.

Local media have reported the bride and groom were among the dead, but this has not been confirmed.

There was no official word on the cause of the blaze, but the Kurdish television news channel Rudaw aired footage showing fireworks shooting up from the floor of the event and setting a chandelier aflame.

Medical staff taking an injured person inside a hospital in Hamdaniya, Nineveh province. / Credit: AP

In the blaze’s aftermath, only charred metal and debris could be seen as people walked through the scene of the fire, the only light coming from television cameras and the lights of onlookers’ mobile phones.

Survivors arrived at local hospitals in bandages, receiving oxygen, as their families milled through hallways and outside as workers organised more oxygen cylinders.

Some of those burned included children.

Other footage shown on other local television networks appeared to show the bride and groom on the dance floor when the fire began Tuesday night, stunned by the sight of the burning debris.

Footage shared on X appears to show the moment the bride and groom notice the fire spreading across the roof

Multiple witnesses, including 50-year-old wedding attendee Faten Youssef, said the fire started as the bride and groom began their slow dance. The flames raced through plastic decorations and the ceiling started collapsing, she said.

“Flames started falling on us,” Youssef told The Associated Press. “Things were falling down and blocked the way to the exit.”

One of the survivors, a young girl with burns on her hands, lies on a bed in a hospital. / Credit: AP

She said her family found their way out through a kitchen, after the family struggled through smoke and flames and her son failed to kick through a jammed exit door.

A man injured in the fire also told Rudaw that the blaze started as the couple prepared for their slow dance.

“They lit up fireworks,” he said. “It hit the ceiling, which caught fire.”

He added: “The entire hall was on fire in seconds.”

Health officials in Nineveh province raised the death toll to 114, though federal officials did not immediately update their figure of at least 100 killed.

An ambulance arrives on the scene. / Credit: AP

Ahmed Dubardani, a health official in the province, told Rudaw that many of those injured suffered serious burns.

“The majority of them were completely burned and some others had 50 to 60% of their bodies burned,” Mr Dubardani said.

“This is not good at all. The majority of them were not in good condition.”

The aftermath of the fire. / Credit: AP

Extravagant wedding ceremonies are common in Iraq, like many countries in the Middle East.

Families often invite hundreds of relatives and members of the broader community, spending heavily on spectacular ceremonies with elaborately decorated halls, music and entertainers, often including pyrotechnics.

Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani ordered an investigation into the fire and asked the country’s Interior and Health officials to provide relief, his office said in a statement online.

Civil defence officials quoted by the Iraqi News Agency described the wedding hall’s exterior as decorated with highly flammable cladding that is illegal in the country.

The number of Christians in Iraq today is estimated at 150,000, compared to 1.5 million in 2003. Iraq’s total population is more than 40 million.

Over the past two decades, Iraq’s Christian minority has been violently targeted by extremists first from al-Qaida and then the Islamic State militant group.

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