IRAQ: Tragedy strikes Nineveh Plains as wedding fire claims over 100 lives in Baghdede

BAGHDEDE, Iraq — A joyous celebration turned into a night of horror as a devastating fire tore through a wedding venue in the Nineveh Plains town of Baghdede (Qaraqosh / Hamdaniya), Iraq, leaving at least 100 people dead and hundreds more injured, according to health officials.

The incident occurred late on Tuesday when a massive blaze engulfed the venue, where a large crowd was gathered to celebrate a wedding. Early assessments suggested that the fire may have been ignited by fireworks used during the festivities.

Rania Waad, a survivor who sustained burns to her hand, recounted the terrifying moment to Middle East Eye: “[As the bride and groom] were slow dancing, the fireworks started to climb to the ceiling [and] the whole hall went up in flames. We couldn’t see anything. We were suffocating, we didn’t know how to get out.”

The Iraqi Red Crescent Society reported at least 450 casualties, but a detailed breakdown of the number of fatalities was not immediately available. Nineveh officials confirmed at least 114 deaths and 200 injuries, with fears that the numbers could rise as rescue and recovery efforts continue.

Spokesperson for the Iraq Ministry of Health Saif al-Badr stated that most of the injured were being treated for burns or oxygen deprivation. He also noted crowd crushes at the scene, indicating the chaotic and panicked response to the unfolding disaster.

The Iraqi civil defense reported that the blaze quickly spread and was exacerbated by the absence of safety measures and proper warning and extinguishing systems.

To compound the tragedy, the use of highly flammable plastic panels released toxic gas emissions after the fire, posing additional risks to those caught in the inferno.

Nineveh governor Najim al-Jubouri declared a week of mourning in the wake of the tragedy. He also announced the postponement of celebrations planned for the birthday of Prophet Muhammad, known as the Mawlid, and urged “all houses of worship” to hold prayers for the “martyrs of the fire and a speedy recovery for the wounded and injured.”