Mourners Demand Accountability, Bury Loved Ones After Iraq Wedding Inferno 

Mourners carry a coffin during the funeral of victims of the fatal fire at a wedding celebration, in Hamdaniya, Iraq, September 28, 2023. (Reuters)
Mourners carry a coffin during the funeral of victims of the fatal fire at a wedding celebration, in Hamdaniya, Iraq, September 28, 2023. (Reuters)
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Mourners Demand Accountability, Bury Loved Ones After Iraq Wedding Inferno 

Mourners carry a coffin during the funeral of victims of the fatal fire at a wedding celebration, in Hamdaniya, Iraq, September 28, 2023. (Reuters)
Mourners carry a coffin during the funeral of victims of the fatal fire at a wedding celebration, in Hamdaniya, Iraq, September 28, 2023. (Reuters)

Calls for accountability grew on Thursday for the victims of a deadly fire at an Iraqi wedding celebration in a town as grief-stricken mourners attended a packed memorial service and families buried their loved ones.

More than 100 people died and at least 150 were injured on Tuesday evening in an inferno that government officials have said was enabled by a lack of safety and security measures and the use of highly flammable materials in the building.

In a sermon interrupted at times by the wails of women clad in black, a priest at Al-Tahira Church in Hamdaniya - also known as Qaraqosh - told mourners that Iraq had been united in grief but criticized officials for "your corruption, your favoritism."

"Nothing is up to standard in this country," he said as mourners, some crying, others holding pictures of the deceased, listened on.

"We have to hold those who are responsible accountable... enough, enough!"

Criticism of a lax approach to public safety is common in Iraq, a country where the state has been weakened by recurring conflict since the 2003 US invasion, and where services are impaired by pervasive corruption for which few senior officials are ever held to account.

The tragedy has revived memories of deadly fires that swept through two hospitals in Iraq in 2021, killing at least 174 people in all, that were at the time blamed on negligence, lax regulations and corruption.

Government officials have announced the arrest of 14 people over Tuesday night's fire, including the owners of the events hall, and promised a swift investigation with results announced within 72 hours.

The government has also ordered immediate inspections of large public gathering spaces such as hotels, schools and hospitals.

"There is no such thing as destiny in Christianity; this is manmade," said Botrous Kareem, a local resident who lost five cousins in the fire and was on his way to a cemetery to attend more burials.



Sudan's RSF Agrees with UN on Steps to Ease Aid Delivery

Sudanese farmers plow a field on the outskirts of Sudan's eastern city of Gedaref on July 18, 2024. (Photo by AFP)
Sudanese farmers plow a field on the outskirts of Sudan's eastern city of Gedaref on July 18, 2024. (Photo by AFP)
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Sudan's RSF Agrees with UN on Steps to Ease Aid Delivery

Sudanese farmers plow a field on the outskirts of Sudan's eastern city of Gedaref on July 18, 2024. (Photo by AFP)
Sudanese farmers plow a field on the outskirts of Sudan's eastern city of Gedaref on July 18, 2024. (Photo by AFP)

Sudan's Rapid Support Forces agreed with the United Nations on some steps to ease aid delivery in areas under its control, a member of the RSF told Reuters on Thursday.

The Sudanese army has not reached any understandings on aid delivers with the RSF, he added. It is unclear if these steps could be implemented without the army's participation.

Meanwhile, a key supply route into Sudan's Darfur region, deemed at risk of famine by a global monitor, has been cut off due to heavy rains, a World Food Program official told Reuters on Thursday.
The UN agency has described Sudan as the world's biggest hunger crisis, with the western Darfur region most at risk as Sudan's 15-month civil war that has displaced millions and sparked ethnic violence grinds on.
WFP's Country Director Eddie Rowe said thousands of tons of aid are stranded at the Tina crossing on the Chad border, prompting the body to reopen talks with the army-aligned government to open an alternative, all-weather crossing further south called Adre.
"You have these huge rivers. As I speak now, our convoy, which is supposed to move over 2000 metric tons is stranded," he told Reuters from Port Sudan. Asked on the status of the talks that resumed this week, he said: "It's 50/50.”
WFP is now seeking clearances to move a large 70-truck convoy via a little-used, over 1000 kilometer route from Port Sudan to Darfur which Rowe said will involve crossing the battle lines of both the Sudan Armed Forces, the Rapid Support Forces and various militias.
He added that this mostly desert route has worked in the past but outside of the rainy season and that the last journey took weeks and was "fraught with a lot of challenges.”
In a separate interview, Mona Rishmawi, a member of the UN Fact-Finding Mission on Sudan, told Reuters that she had met Darfur refugees in Chad who told her stories of escaping with virtually no water and eating grass along the route. "There's no doubt that people are starving," she said.