More than 100 people are dead after a fire tore through a wedding reception in Iraq during the bride and groom’s first dance.
The civil defence was searching the charred skeleton of a building in Hamdaniya district, Iraq’s Nineveh province, for survivors into the early hours of Wednesday morning.
Nineveh Deputy Governor Hasan al-Allaq said 113 people had been confirmed dead, with state media putting the death toll at 100 people at least, with 150 injured.
It is understood the fire ripped through the large events hall in the north-eastern region after fireworks were lit during the celebration.
Wedding guest Rania Waad, who sustained a burn to her hand, said that as the bride and groom “were slow dancing, the fireworks started to climb to the ceiling (and) the whole hall went up in flames”.
“We couldn’t see anything,” the 17-year-old said. “We were suffocating, we didn’t know how to get out.”
Najim al-Jubouri, the provincial governor of Nineveh, said some of the injured had been transferred to regional hospitals.
Eyewitnesses at the site said the building caught fire at around 10.45pm local time and that hundreds of people were in attendance at the time of the incident.
Ambulances and medical crews were dispatched to the site by federal Iraqi authorities and Iraq’s semi-autonomous Kurdistan region, according to official statements.
“All efforts are being made to provide relief to those affected by the unfortunate accident,” Health Ministry spokesman Saif al-Badr said.
Video from a Reuters correspondent at the site showed firefighters clambering over the charred wreckage of the building, shining lights over smouldering wreckage as they searched for survivors.
Preliminary information indicated that the building was made of highly flammable construction materials, contributing to its rapid collapse, state media said.
“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 officials, quoted by the Iraqi News Agency, said.