BAGHDAD (AP) — A fire at a wedding hall in northern Iraq killed at least 100 people and injured 150 others, authorities said Wednesday.
The fire happened in Iraq’s Nineveh province in its Hamdaniya area, authorities said. That’s a predominantly Christian area just outside of the northern city of Mosul, some 335 kilometers (205 miles) northwest of the capital, Baghdad.
Television footage showed charred debris inside of the wedding hall as a man shouted at firefighters.
Health Ministry spokesman Saif al-Badr gave the casualty figure via the state-run Iraqi News Agency.
“All efforts are being made to provide relief to those affected by the unfortunate accident,” al-Badr said.
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.
Najim al-Jubouri, the provincial governor of Nineveh, said some of the injured had been transferred to regional hospitals. He cautioned there were no final casualty figures yet from the blaze, which suggests the death toll still may rise.
There was no immediate official word on the cause of the blaze but initial reports by the Kurdish television news channel Rudaw suggested fireworks at the venue may have sparked the fire.
Civil defense officials quoted by the Iraqi News Agency described the wedding hall’s exterior as being decorated with highly flammable cladding that were illegal in the country.
“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 defense said.
It wasn’t immediately clear why authorities in Iraq allowed the cladding to be used on the hall, though corruption and mismanagement remains endemic two decades after the U.S.-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein.
While some types of cladding can be made with fire-resistant material, experts say those that have caught fire at the wedding hall and elsewhere weren’t designed to meet stricter safety standards and often were put onto buildings without any breaks to slow or halt a possible blaze. That includes the 2017 Grenfell Fire in London that killed 72 people in the greatest loss of life in a fire on British soil since World War II, as well as multiple high-rise fires in the United Arab Emirates.