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Middle East
Scores dead in Iraq hotel fire
Foreigners among at least 29 dead as fire engulfs hotel in Kurdish city of Sulaymaniyah.
Last Modified: 16 Jul 2010 15:19 GMT

At least 29 people, including several foreign nationals, have died in a hotel fire in the city of Sulaymaniyah in northern Iraq, according to hospital sources.

Another 22 people were injured in the fire on Thursday at the Soma Hotel in the central area of the city, the sources added.

"Most of the people who were killed were choked because of the smoke. They could not get out," Reqot Hama-Rasheed, head of the health department in the city, said.

Al Jazeera's Rawya Rageh, reporting from Baghdad, said that the building was a small five-storey hotel that attracted lots of foreign business people because it was in a secure area.

"There is still confusion over the exact death toll - but we know that the dead include Americans, Europeans, Koreans, Bangladeshis, Arab nationals and various other nationalities," she said.

The reported official death toll was first 40 people, but this was later revised down by Najim-Eldeen Qader, the city's police chief.

"The official final death toll is 29 killed and 22 wounded," Qader said.

"Last night there was chaos at the hospital because of the large numbers of casualties and this could explain the mistake that happened in the death toll."

Electrical fault

"The investigations are still under way, but police sources have told us that it was probably an electrical fault," our correspondent said.

Some of the victims died after jumping from the third floor to escape the flames, a police official said.

Some of the victims jumped to their death as the fire raged out of control for hours [AFP]

The fire raged out of control for several hours.

A security official said the fire was not a terrorist act and the cause was under investigation.

"This is not a terrorist act. Most probably it was due to an electrical fault," Qader Hama-Jan, the head of local security operations, said.

Sulaymaniyah is located 260km northeast of Baghdad and is the second largest city in Iraq's Kurdish autonomous region.

Iraq's minority Kurds were oppressed by Saddam Hussein, the Iraqi former president, but have enjoyed virtual independence under Western protection since the end of the first Gulf War.

As the rest of Iraq descended into civil war after the 2003 US-led invasion, Iraqi Kurdistan's relative stability has drawn foreign investors, principally from Turkey and the Middle East.

"Sulaymaniyah and Kurdistan have remained relatively calm areas, and that it why it attracted foreign business people and even local Iraqis who went there for the better climate," Rageh said.

Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
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