Iraq’s Wedding Hall Fire Raises Concerns about Lax Safety Standards
A fire that broke out at a wedding reception in northern Iraq killed over 100 people and injured around 150 others. The tragedy occurred in the Al-Hamdaniya district of Nineveh province.
The newlyweds are also among the dead, as confirmed by the deputy head of the Nineveh health directorate.
The Iraqi Red Crescent Society reported over 450 people were affected by the fire. Survivors are treated at nearby hospitals, and efforts to identify the deceased and notify their families are underway.
The cause of the fire that engulfed the wedding hall remains unclear. Initial reports suggest that fireworks may have played a role in the tragedy. Disturbing images circulating on social media reveal the charred remains of the event hall.
Officials suspect that highly flammable panels used in the venue’s construction may have contributed to the rapid spread of the flames. The wedding hall had cladding on its exterior which is illegal in Iraq. Cladding is typically used for insulation or aesthetics on building exteriors and serves as a protective layer against extreme temperatures.
The type of cladding used in the wedding hall is similar to the one responsible for the rapid spread of the 2017 Grenfell Tower fire in London that claimed 72 lives. It was banned on all buildings in 2022 due to its hazardous nature. This type of cladding involved metal composite and unmodified polyethylene, which posed a fire risk.
It remains unclear why such flammable cladding was utilised in the wedding hall construction. Reports suggest that widespread corruption and regulatory negligence may have allowed builders to disregard safety standards.
During the wedding hall fire, some parts of the ceiling collapsed further endangering those inside and complicating rescue efforts.
According to Iraq’s health ministry spokesman, Saif Al-Badr, the deaths of the majority of victims were primarily attributed to burns and asphyxiation.
Outside a nearby hospital, a gathering of people offers blood donations to support those who suffered injuries in the fire. A refrigerated truck, loaded with black body bags, is also seen shuttling.
Iraq Prime Minister Mohammed Shia’ Al Sudani has directed officials to provide immediate relief and assistance to those affected.
The city of Al-Hamdaniya, once under the control of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), was liberated after the Battle of Mosul in 2017. Residents who had been displaced by the violence have since returned to their homes. The wedding hall fire is not an isolated occurrence. It follows a pattern of other fires in Iraq. In July 2021, more than 60 lives were lost in a fire that engulfed a Covid unit of a hospital in the southern part of the country. Just three months prior, in the capital city of Baghdad, another incident claimed the lives of 80 people as exploding oxygen tanks ignited a fire in a hospital.
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