New Delhi: A wedding celebration turned into a tragedy in Iraq when a fire broke out at a hall hosting a Christian wedding in Nineveh province, near the city of Mosul. The fire killed at least 100 people, including the bride and groom, and injured 150 others, authorities said on Wednesday. The cause of the fire is still under investigation, but some reports suggested that fireworks at the venue may have ignited the blaze.
The fire occurred on Tuesday night around 10:45 pm local time, when about 1,000 guests were present at the hall in Hamdaniya district, a predominantly Christian area just outside Mosul, some 335 kilometers northwest of the capital Baghdad. According to civil defense officials, the fire spread rapidly through the hall, which was decorated with highly flammable cladding that violated safety standards.
Television footage showed flames engulfing the hall as people ran for their lives. Some of the survivors were taken to nearby hospitals, where they received oxygen and bandages. Others were transferred to regional hospitals for further treatment. Health officials warned that the death toll could rise as some injured were in critical condition.
Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani ordered an inquiry into the incident and asked the interior and health ministers to relieve the affected people, his office said in a statement. He also expressed his condolences to the families of the victims and wished a speedy recovery to the injured.
The fire was the latest disaster to strike Iraq’s shrinking Christian minority, which has faced persecution and violence from extremist groups in recent years. Many Christians have fled the country or moved to safer areas after the rise of the Islamic State group in 2014. According to some estimates, Iraq’s Christian population has dwindled from about 1.5 million before the US-led invasion in 2003 to less than 300,000 today.