ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Two died while hundreds more were rescued on Thursday near the holiest Shia sites in the world in the city of Karbala after an electrical fire broke out.
“The fire broke out some 50 meters away from the Imam Hussain Shrine,” an eyewitness told Kurdistan 24 on Friday.
“Two people died of severe burn injuries as they were rushed to the emergency hospital,” Civil Defense Director General, Kathem Salman Buhan, told reporters after the incident.
Buhan added that civil defense personnel managed to save more than 500 people who were caught in the fire that local authorities stated was caused by “electrical contact.”
Electrical fires are quite frequent in Iraq, especially during the summertime. High temperatures, a strained power grid, and tangled and exposed wires are a safety risk which has yet to be addressed by governing authorities.
The fire caused considerable material damage to nearby shops, witnesses said, and many ambulances and fire trucks were at the site, putting out the fire and helping those injured.
One eyewitness told Kurdistan 24 that seven people almost suffocated after inhaling large amounts of smoke, but eventually recovered.
The hotel where the fire broke out lies on the same street as the Imam Hussain Shrine and al-Abbas Mosque, both considered holy by Shia Muslims around the world.
Each year, the shrine—a Mosque and the burial site of Hussain Ibn Ali, the grandson of the Prophet of Islam—is visited by millions of Shias from around the world marking the anniversary of the Imam’s death in the battle of Karbala.
Editing by Nadia Riva