A fire ripped through a packed wedding hall in northern Iraq late on Tuesday, killing more than 100 people in a Christian town that had survived Islamic State occupation.
Fire fighters searched the charred remains of the building in Qaraqosh, also known as Hamdaniya, through Wednesday morning and bereaved relatives gathered outside a morgue in the nearby city of Mosul, wailing and rocking in distress.
Several sources in Qaraqosh said the bride and groom had survived the fire, but Reuters was not immediately able to confirm that or speak to their families.
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.
Nineveh province Deputy Governor Hassan al-Allaf told Reuters 113 people had been confirmed dead. The head of the province’s Red Crescent branch said the death toll was not final but that it “exceeds hundreds injured and dozens killed”.
The United States, which led an invasion of the country in 2003, said on Wednesday it was ready to talk to the Iraqi government about any assistance it could offer.
A video of the event, posted on social media but not yet verified by Reuters, appeared to show the flares suddenly catching a glittering ceiling decoration that burst into flames, as sounds of excitement turned rapidly to panic.
Another video that Reuters has not yet verified showed a couple dancing in wedding clothes as burning material begins to drop to the floor.
Deadly fires in Iraq that were blamed on negligence, lax regulations and corruption hit two hospitals treating COVID patients in Baghdad and the southern city of Nassiriya in 2021, killing at least 174 people in all.