A fire tore through a wedding venue in northern Iraq on Wednesday, killing at least 93 people and leaving 100 more injured, according to Interior Ministry spokesman Saad Maan.
The fire struck a wedding venue in the predominantly Christian town of Hamdaniya, just outside the northern Iraqi city of Mosul, about 205 miles northwest of the capital, Baghdad.
According to emergency services and witnesses at the scene, fireworks inside the venue sparked the deadly blaze.
"The speed of the fire, due to highly flammable building materials and highly flammable decorations and curtains covering the ceiling and the walls, took everyone by surprise," the emergency rescue service in Nineveh province told reporters.
Video livestreamed on social media showed how suddenly the fire spread panic among the dancing guests in the ballroom, sending people running for safety, including the bride and groom.
The roughly 700 people who were inside the building found themselves trapped as the flames had erupted near the primary entrance.
"Soon after the fire started, it was a blackout, and smoke and screaming caused chaos. People were suffocating, falling and stampeding over each other," one witness told reporters. "Soon after that, part of the ceiling collapsed, causing more deaths and injuries."
Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani ordered an investigation into the blaze and asked the country's interior and health ministries to provide assistance, his office said in a statement posted online.
A source with the provincial government in Nineveh told CBS News an investigation would be carried out to determine not only how the fire started, but also "how and whether this venue had a license, considering the poor safety conditions."
The source, who spoke on the condition of anonymity as they did not have permission to speak to media about the incident, said the owner of the venue had gone into "hiding," and the hope was that the individual would be found to face an "investigation into the legality of operating such an unsafe venue."
Iraq has faced similar tragedies in the recent past, blamed on poor building materials and insufficient safety standards, including two major fires in hospital wards for COVID-19 patients in Baghdad and Nasiriyah that killed dozens of people.
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