Death toll rises to 15 after gas cylinder explosion in Iraq’s north

SULAIMANIYA (Reuters): Fifteen people were killed in a gas cylinder explosion in a residential area in the northern Iraqi city of Sulaimaniya, the civil defense said on Friday.

A rescue operation lasting 17 hours had now ended, the civil defense added.

Earlier on Friday, Haval Abubaker, the governor of Sulaimaniya province, announced three days of mourning.

Civil defense firefighters managed to contain the fire that broke out in a residential area after the gas cylinder exploded on Thursday. The fire damaged several houses and destroyed at least five vehicles, police said.

Police officers said at least three houses were completely destroyed by the explosion of a cooking gas cylinder that was installed on the rooftop of one of the homes.

Much of war-ravaged Iraq’s infrastructure is dilapidated and tragedies are common. The country also suffers from poorly enforced safety standards, particularly in the transport and construction sectors.

Local residents watched on Friday morning as emergency workers, assisted by a backhoe, continued the rescue effort among collapsed white bricks and twisted metal.

The explosion shattered the windows and blackened the facade of a neighboring building.

An earlier toll issued Friday morning by Sulaimaniyah’s health authorities had reported 10 deaths.

At least one child is among the victims, according to Abubaker, who declared a day of mourning.

At the end of October, at least nine people were killed and 13 others injured when a tanker transporting gas accidentally exploded in Baghdad, the Iraqi capital.

In April 2021, more than 80 people died in a Baghdad hospital fire when improperly stored oxygen cylinders exploded.