Nineveh (Iraq): A massive fire that broke out at a wedding party in the Hamdaniya district in Iraq's Nineveh province killed over 100 attendees and injured 150 on Tuesday.
The tragedy left the civil defence searching the charred skeleton of a building for survivors into the early hours of Wednesday.
Nineveh Deputy Governor Hassan al-Allaq told Reuters that 114 people had been confirmed dead, with state media putting the death toll at least 100, with 150 people injured.
The fire ripped through a large events hall in the north-eastern region after fireworks were lit during the celebration, local civil defence said, according to state media.
"We saw the fire pulsating, coming out of the hall. Those who managed got out and those who didn't got stuck. Even those who made their way out were broken," said Imad Yohana, a 34-year-old who escaped the inferno.
Preliminary information indicated that the building was made of highly flammable construction materials, contributing to its rapid collapse, state media said.
Ambulances and medical crews were dispatched to the site by federal Iraqi authorities and Iraq's semi-autonomous Kurdistan region, according to official statements.
Eyewitnesses at the site said the building caught fire at around 10.45 pm local time (1945 GMT) and that hundreds of people were in attendance at the time of the incident.
Civil defence officials quoted by the Iraqi News Agency described the wedding hall's exterior as being decorated with highly flammable cladding that was illegal in the country.
It wasn't immediately clear why authorities in Iraq allowed the cladding to be used on the hall, though corruption and mismanagement remain endemic two decades after the US-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein.
While some types of cladding can be made with fire-resistant material, experts say those that have caught fire at the wedding hall and elsewhere weren't designed to meet stricter safety standards and often were put onto buildings without any breaks to slow or halt a possible blaze.
That includes the 2017 Grenfell Fire in London that killed 72 people in the greatest loss of life in a fire on British soil since World War II, as well as multiple high-rise fires in the United Arab Emirates.
The fire was the latest disaster to strike Iraq's shrinking Christian minority, which over the past two decades has been violently targeted by extremists first from al-Qaeda and then the Islamic State militant group.
(With Agencies inputs)