At least 100 people are dead and 150 were injured at a wedding reception in northern Iraq Tuesday after a massive fire broke out, possibly caused by fireworks, officials in the Middle Eastern country said.
The blaze took place at a wedding hall in the Al-Hamdaniya district in the Nineveh Plain, Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani confirmed in a post on X.
The scene is located outside of the city of Mosul, about 200 miles northwest of the capital of Baghdad.
Shia al-Sudani said he called the governor of Nineveh for an update on the fire and ordered a formal investigation into its cause. He also said he directed health and interior officials to “mobilize all efforts to provide relief to those affected by the unfortunate incident."
Bride killed on wedding day: DUI suspect accused of killing bride on wedding day sued along with 'bar hopping' businesses
At least 113 dead, 150 injured so far
Although rescue crews were still searching for survivors on Wednesday, Nineveh deputy Governor Hassan al-Allaq told Reuters 113 people were confirmed dead.
It was not immediately known if the bride and the groom died.
The country's Health Ministry spokesman Saif al Badr told state-run Iraqi News Agency, the fire injured at least 150 people.
Ahmed Dubardani, a health official in the province, said many of the injured "suffered serious burns", The Associated Press reported.
“The majority of them were completely burned and some others had 50 to 60% of their bodies burned," Dubardani told the AP.
Although the official cause of the fire was not immediately known, the AP reported TV news channel Rudaw aired footage "showing pyrotechnics shooting flames up from the floor of the event and setting a chandelier aflame."
The death toll, officials said, is expected to rise.
"This was not a wedding. This was hell."
Witness Mariam Khedr told Reuters she lost four family members in the blaze, including an 8-month old grandchild.
"This was not a wedding. This was hell," said Khedr, crying and hitting herself as she waited for officials to return the bodies of her 27-year-old daughter and her three young grandchildren, the outlet reported.
Wedding attendee Faten Youssef told the AP the fire started as the bride and groom began to slow dance. "Flames raced through plastic decorations and the ceiling started collapsing. Flames started falling on us," Youssef, who is 50, told the AP. "Things were falling down and blocked the way to the exit.”
Some of Youssef's family, who also witnessed the horror, she said, fought their way through smoke and flames but made it safely out of the building through a kitchen area, the outlet reported.
Morocco earthquake updates: Aftershock rocks rescuers as death toll surpasses 2,000; U.N. mission inventories damage to historic sites
'Cover the victims with mercy and forgiveness'
During a speech at the fifth Congress of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, the Iraqi News Agency reported the secretary-general of Asaib Ahl al-Haq Sheikh al-Khazali offered condolences to the families of the victims who attended the Christian wedding ceremony and deadly reception. "We ask Almighty Allah to cover the victims with mercy and forgiveness, the injured with a speedy recovery, and to inspire their families with patience and fortitude" he told the agency.
This is a developing story.
Contributing: The Associated Press and Reuters
Natalie Neysa Alund is a senior reporter for USA TODAY. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow her on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter @nataliealund.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Fire at wedding in Iraq kills at least 100 people during reception