Foreigners among 30 dead in Iraq hotel blaze
SULAIMANIYAH, Iraq (AFP) Ã¢â‚¬â€œ Guests leapt desperately to their deaths from upper-floor windows as a fire tore through a hotel in northern Iraq killing 30 people, 14 of them foreigners, police and medics said on Friday.
Citizens of Australia, Britain, Canada and several Asian and South American countries were among those killed in Thursday night’s blaze in Sulaimaniyah, which raged for seven hours before being brought under control, officials said.
A preliminary report prepared by the city’s hospital said people from 12 countries had died.
Visiting telecommunications engineers from Sri Lanka, the Philippines and Cambodia, were among the victims, according to hospital officials and the chairman of the telecoms company.
“The number killed is 30, among whom there are 14 foreigners,” said Rikot Hama Rasheed, the director of Sulaimaniyah hospital, following the fire, which rose rapidly from the second floor of the six-storey Soma hotel.
“The regional government will contact the embassies of the foreigners who were killed,” said Rasheed, listing Iraq, Ecuador, Venezuela, Lebanon, South Africa and Bangladesh as among the victims’ nationalities.
Witnesses told AFP at least three of those who died did so after leaping from the hotel’s windows in a desperate bid to save themselves as flames and smoke engulfed their rooms.
Mirwan Saeed, 30, broke both his legs after making his way to the hotel roof and jumping towards a lower building near the hotel to save his life.
“We were in the hotel when the smoke started coming in,” he told AFP from his hospital bed. “I had no choice but to jump.”
Colonel Araz Bakr, chief of Sulaimaniyah rescue services, confirmed the death toll and said 42 people were injured, including seven firefighters. He said most of those who died were suffocated by smoke.
A city council official said an electrical fault caused the blaze, which also damaged several adjacent buildings.
“Women and children are among the victims of the incident which happened in the Soma Hotel,” said the official, Razgar Ahmed.
Sulaimaniyah is the capital of one of three northern provinces that make up Iraq’s autonomous Kurdish region.
The region is popular with tourists and business has flourished in recent years as it is peaceful, unlike much of Iraq which remains wracked by violence seven years after the US-led invasion toppled now executed dictator Saddam Hussein.
An official from the city’s mortuary said in an earlier report that four Americans were among the dead in the fire but there was no confirmation from the hospital.
A US embassy spokesman said consular officials were checking whether American citizens were among the dead or injured.
The victims from the Philippines, Sri Lanka and Cambodia worked for telecoms operator Asiacell, one of three mobile communications companies in Iraq.
“We lost four engineers from our company, one of them a lady from the Philippines, and three of them men from Sri Lanka, Cambodia and Iraq,” said Faruk Mula Mustafa, chairman of Asiacell.
Two other Iraqi employees were injured in the fire, he said.