Mourners demand accountability over Iraq wedding fire

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STORY: A packed memorial service for the victims of a deadly fire at an Iraqi wedding celebration took place on Thursday (September 28).

At a funeral the day before, the groom was among the crowds of people weeping.

Calls for accountability were growing in the Christian town of Hamdaniya, as grief-stricken mourners watched their loved ones being buried.

More than 100 people died and at least 150 were injured on Tuesday evening in an inferno that government officials have said was enabled by a lack of safety and security measures and the use of highly flammable materials in the building.

In a sermon interrupted at times by the wails of women clad in black, a priest at Al-Tahira Church told mourners that Iraq had been united in grief, but hecriticized officials for their corruption.

It was a theme repeated by a victim's relative, Em Nour.

“It is not okay for one person get burned because of a lack of safety measures, let alone tens of people. Iraqi blood is spilled so easily. There have been so many accidents over the years, like the boat that sunk in Mosul in 2019, the parks that lack safety measures. It is not about a certain area, it is the whole state that has no laws to protect the people."

Criticism of a lax approach to public safety is common in Iraq.

The state has been weakened by recurring conflict since the 2003 U.S. invasion

Services are impaired by pervasive corruption for which few senior officials are ever held to account.

The tragedy has revived memories of deadly fires that swept through two hospitals in Iraq in 2021, killing at least 174 people in all, that were at the time blamed on negligence, lax regulations and corruption.

Government officials have announced the arrest of 14 people over Tuesday night's fire, including the owners of the events hall, and promised a swift investigation.