MOSUL, Iraq -- As they watched the bride and groom start their slow dance, Faten Youssef imagined the future wedding of her son, seated next to her at a reception table. Within moments, however, disaster struck when an inferno erupted that would leave nearly 100 dead in the northern Iraqi wedding hall.
As the dance began, a ring of pyrotechnics machines on the floor released fountains of sparks into the air. As the music played, ceiling panels above the machines burst into flames.
The around 250 panicked guests in the the Haitham Royal Wedding Hall in the predominantly Christian Hamdaniya area stampeded for the exits as flaming decorations and pieces of ceiling rained down on them.
Authorities on Wednesday said around 100 people were killed, with the toll expected to rise with at least 100 injured, including many critically burned. Authorities said highly flammable building materials contributed to the disaster. The tragedy Tuesday night was the latest to hit Iraq’s Christian minority, which has dwindled to a fraction of its former size over the past decade in the face of militant attacks.
There was no official word on the cause of the blaze. But Kurdish television news channel Rudaw aired footage of the flames erupting from the ceiling over a chandelier as the spark machines jetted fireworks below.