A fire ripped through a wedding celebration Tuesday in northern Iraq, reportedly leaving over 100 people dead.
Firefighters searched through the singed events hall in Qaraqosh on Wednesday morning as relatives of the deceased watched in distress, Reuters reported. Qaraqosh, also known as al-Hamdaniya, is identified as a Christian city, according to the BBC and Reuters.
Survivors said hundreds of people were at the wedding celebration, which followed an earlier church service, and the fire began about an hour into the event when flares ignited a ceiling decoration as the bride and groom danced.https://t.co/n4ufrMDJ8g
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“This was not a wedding. This was hell,” Mariam Khedr, a relative of several victims, said as she waited for their bodies to be recovered by officials. Khedr’s 27-year-old daughter, Rana Yakoub, and her three eight-month-old grandchildren died in the fire, according to the outlet. (RELATED: Bear Crashes Colorado Wedding, Gobbles Up All The Cannoli)
The blaze began one hour into the event at around 10:45 p.m. local time as the bride and groom danced. Hundreds of guests had attended the church service followed by the wedding celebration, where a ceiling decoration burst into flames after flares were lit, Reuters reported, citing Interior Minister Abdul Amir al-Shammari’s statement to local media.
“The hall did not meet safety criteria. Because of the fireworks the ceiling collapsed on the people in the hall,” al-Shammari said, according to CNN.
There were 113 confirmed deaths, ABC News reported, citing local officials. Approximately 150 individuals suffered injuries in the tragedy. The groom’s father said his son, Ivan Esho, and bride Haneen survived and are recovering in the hospital, according to CNN. “I hold the owner of the hall responsible for what happened at the party,” the father told the outlet, alleging “there are no extinguishers or safety measures in the hall.”
“We saw the fire pulsating, coming out of the hall,” 34-year-old survivor Imad Yohana said, according to Reuters. “Those who managed got out and those who didn’t got stuck.”
The Interior Ministry has issued four arrest warrants for the venue owners, Reuters reported. President Abdul Latif Rashid has allegedly vouched for an investigation, and the Iraqi government has called for three days of national mourning in the wake of the fire, CNN reported.