Sorrow gripped Iraq on Wednesday following a tragic fire that had set ablaze a wedding hall in the district of Hamdaniya, located in the Nineveh governorate in the northern part of the country.
The inferno, ignited by fireworks within the hall, led to the loss of at least one hundred lives in the town of Qaraqosh, part of the Hamdaniya district, predominantly inhabited by Christians.
The final casualty count remained conflicting nearly 20 hours after the blaze broke out.
Iraqi Interior Minister Abdul-Amir al-Shammari stated that the latest figures reported by the Nineveh Health Directorate were 93 fatalities and over 100 injuries.
However, local medical reports suggested that the number of fatalities might exceed 120 individuals who lost their lives due to severe burns or suffocation.
Doctors reported receiving dozens of dead children during the night.
It took civil defense personnel an extended period to search for the missing individuals among the debris, with some found trapped amidst charred tables.
As authorities launched a probe, the Interior Ministry reported that the initial findings indicate the incident is not of criminal nature but rather was caused by “lapses in safety and security measures.”
An official from the civil defense department, who requested anonymity, informed Asharq Al-Awsat that “there are still children missing under the rubble.”
Additionally, a high-ranking officer disclosed that a special security force has taken the venue owner into custody for questioning and legal actions, while prior to that, four individuals responsible for organizing the wedding ceremony were apprehended.
Kurdish authorities in Erbil later announced arresting the owner of the banquet hall.
The Iraqi government has declared a three-day national mourning period for the victims, following the announcement by Nineveh’s governor, Najm al-Jubouri, of a week of mourning and the postponement of celebrations for the Prophet's birthday (Mawlid al-Nabi) until further notice.
The Saudi Foreign Ministry extended condolences and expressed solidarity with Iraq and its people while offering their condolences to the families of the victims. They also wished a speedy recovery for the injured.