Dozens Die In Iraq Hotel Fire

A hotel lacking basic safety precautions such as smoke detectors and fire extinguishers was engulfed in flames on Thursday night in Iraq’s northern Kurdistan region, killing 28 people, many of them foreigners working in the booming oil and telecommunications industries. The fire appeared to have started with an electrical short circuit on a lower floor and quickly turned the five-story Soma hotel into a death trap, inflicting a heavy toll on a corner of Iraq that has been largely insulated from the scale of violence and death that engulfed the rest of the country over the past seven years. The dead included two babies and a pregnant woman, according to hospital officials in the city. Twenty-two others were injured in the blaze. A metal gate at the back of the hotel, apparently intended as a fire exit, was locked at the time of the fire, according to one of the owners and several guests who survived the ordeal. The fire was made worse by a large furniture showroom occupying the hotel’s two lower floors, full of wood and fabric that fueled the blaze. At least three desperate guests jumped from windows on top floors. Two survived with broken legs. “I saw people on fire,” said Mariwan Jabbar, 29, one of the guests who jumped and broke both legs. “That’s the only reason that made me jump. I did not want to die in those circumstances.”