Bahrain pilgrims escape Iraq hotel blaze
Manama, October 20, 2013
A total of sixty-three Bahraini pilgrims narrowly escaped death after a fire broke out in their hotel in Karbala, Iraq on Friday evening.
Several suffered hand and leg injuries as they smashed windows in their rooms and communal corridors in the panic to escape.
Iraqi firemen rushed to the scene and helped evacuate guests and prevented the fire from spreading.
Bahrain's Ambassador to Iraq Salah Al Maliki yesterday confirmed all the Bahrainis involved were safe.
"There were 63 Bahrainis, including families, staying at the hotel which caught fire because of a short-circuit, based on the information we have gathered," he told the Gulf Daily News, our sister publication from Baghdad.
"Some citizens were injured but they are in a good condition and we have arranged for their travel."
Maliki said the embassy had issued a dozen emergency exit documents for the Bahrainis, whose passports were destroyed in the fire.
He said the belongings of some Bahrainis were damaged in the fire but the embassy was helping them to continue with their planned journeys.
"The 63 pilgrims are on their way to Najaf, while the others are travelling by land to Kuwait and will then return to Bahrain," the envoy added.
Officials from the travel agent Hamlat Leewa Al Abbas that organised the trip could not be reached for comment.
Karbala is a popular destination for Bahraini pilgrims who travel to the city year-round to honour Imam Hussain, the grandson of Prophet Mohammed.
The GDN reported last month that Bahraini pilgrims visiting Iraq were taking huge risks by travelling there amid a rising tide of violence.
International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) consulting senior fellow for the Middle East Dr Toby Dodge said a surge in violence posed a major threat to hundreds of Bahraini Shi'ites, who visit religious shrines in Iraqi cities.
More than 4,000 people have been killed during the last five months, according to UN reports.
The Foreign Ministry set up hotlines to assist pilgrims travelling to Iraq in June and urged them to "exercise caution" and comply with safety guidelines issued by Iraqi authorities. Bahrainis were urged to avoid crowded areas and popular markets, particularly in the capital Baghdad, as well as stay vigilant when travelling from one governorate to another.-TradeArabia News Service