A Calgary man was among the at least 29 people killed in a fire in a five-storey hotel in Sulaimaniyah, northern Iraq, the company he worked for confirmed in a statement Friday.
“We are deeply saddened to confirm reports that eight Terraseis employees died in the fire,” Terraseis International said in its statement.
The Dubai-based company conducts geophysical surveys, often used in oil exploration and production, and its employees were in Iraq doing subcontract work for Calgary-based Talisman Energy.
The other Terraseis employees killed were from several different countries, including South Africa, the U.K. and Venezuela.
Terraseis chairman Kevin Plintz confirmed to CBC that the Canadian killed was from Calgary. Plintz also said two other Canadians are being treated for smoke inhalation.
The fire in the Soma Hotel began late Thursday night and was likely sparked by an electrical short, the local chief of police, Brig.-Gen. Najim-al-Din Qadir, said. The investigation is still underway but officials have said it was not an act of terrorism.
Qadir said the dead included people from Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Canada, Ecuador, Venezuela and China, with some working for foreign oil companies.
Many died of smoke inhalation
Neil Arun, a journalist based in Iraq, said at least 40 people were hurt, and most of the casualties were believed to have died from smoke inhalation.
“A lot of the people also seem to have died after trying to leave their rooms, after trying to jump from their windows,” Arun said Friday.
Marwan Assad, a Kurd with dual British citizenship, said he came to the hotel to visit two friends but never made it to their room. He said the fire broke out when he was on the third floor and smoke quickly enveloped the hallway, forcing him to stumble blindly in search of a way out.
“I saw an open door and a man lying dead in the room because he suffocated from the smoke,” Assad said at Sulaimaniyah Emergency Hospital, where he was about to undergo surgery for breaks to both his legs. “I entered the room and threw myself from the window.”
Sulaimaniyah fire department head Brig. Yadgar Mohammed Mustafa confirmed that many of the victims succumbed to smoke inhalation. He said the lack of fire escapes contributed to the high death toll.
Farouq Mulla Mustafa, general director of the AsiaCell mobile phone company, said four of the company’s engineers from the Philippines, Iraq, Sri Lanka and Cambodia were among the dead.
Sulaimaniyah, located 260 kilometres northeast of Baghdad, is the commercial capital of Iraq’s Kurdish region and the region’s second largest city.