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At least 100 dead in wedding fire in Iraq

According to health authorities, at least 100 people in Iraq died and 150 others were injured in a fire during a wedding in a community center in Hamdaniyah, a small town in the north of the country, on the night of Tuesday to Wednesday.

At the main hospital in Hamdaniyah, a small predominantly Christian town east of the metropolis of Mosul, an AFP photographer saw several ambulances arrive with sirens blaring. According to the same source, dozens of people gathered in the courtyard of the facility, relatives of victims or local residents who came to donate their blood.

According to the photographer, residents also gathered in front of the open doors of a refrigerated truck loaded with several black body bags.

Health authorities in Nineveh, the province where Hamdaniyah is located, “have recorded 100 deaths and more than 150 injured in the fire at a wedding hall in Hamdaniyah,” the official Iraqi news agency INA said, citing a “preliminary assessment.”

Health Ministry spokesman Saif al-Badr confirmed this report to AFP.

In a press release, Civil Defense reported the presence of prefabricated panels in the party room where the tragedy occurred, which were “highly flammable and violated safety standards.”

“The fire caused parts of the ceiling to collapse due to the use of highly flammable and inexpensive construction materials,” said the same source.

“Preliminary information indicates that fireworks were used during a wedding, which caused a fire at the venue,” the statement added.

In Iraq, safety standards are poorly adhered to, be it in the construction or transport sectors. The country, whose infrastructure is in poor condition after decades of conflict, is regularly the scene of fires or fatal domestic accidents.