BAGHDAD – A fierce blaze at a hotel without fire escapes sent some desperate guests plunging to their deaths in a northern Iraqi oil boomtown, killing 28 people.
Half of those killed were foreigners, a reflection of the thousands of migrants who have flooded the Kurdish region in northern Iraq in recent years in search of economic opportunities. Kurdistan, which has been spared the brunt of violence in Iraq, has prospered even as the rest of the country remains mired in sectarian bloodshed and political woes that have slowed investment.
The fire began late Thursday night in the city of Sulaimaniyah and lasted well into Friday morning as firefighters battled the deadly blaze in the five-story Soma Hotel for nearly five hours.
Witnesses described a chaotic scene in which smoke filled the hallways and billowed out of the windows, forcing some hotel guests to jump from the upper floors in a desperate attempt to avoid the flames.
Most of the victims died from smoke inhalation, and the lack of fire escapes contributed to the high death toll, said the head of the city’s fire department, Brig. Yadgar Mohammed Mustafa.