AFP - Four Americans and at least three other foreigners were among 29 people killed in a hotel fire in northern Iraq that saw some of the victims jump to their deaths, officials said Friday.
The massive blaze in Sulaimaniyah city, 270 kilometres (170 miles) north of Baghdad, broke out around 10.30 pm (1930 GMT) Thursday and raged for seven hours before finally being brought under control.
Hospital officials said four Americans were among those killed and visiting telecommunications engineers from Sri Lanka, the Philippines and Cambodia also died, according to their company chairman.
"We have received 29 bodies," said Rikot Hama Rasheed, the director of Sulaimaniyah hospital, following the blaze, which spread rapidly from the second floor of the six-floor hotel and also damaged several nearby buildings.
Witnesses told AFP that at least three of those who died did so after leaping from the windows of the Soma Hotel in a desperate bid to save themselves.
Colonel Araz Bakr, chief of Sulaimaniyah rescue services, confirmed the toll and said 42 others were injured, including seven firemen. He said most of those who died were suffocated by smoke.
A city council official also said 29 people were killed and preliminary investigations indicated that the blaze had been caused by an electrical fault.
"Women and children are among the victims of the incident which happened in the Soma Hotel in the centre of the city," said the official, Razgar Ahmed.
Sulaimaniyah is the capital of one of three northern provinces that make up Iraq's autonomous Kurdish region.
The region is popular with tourists and business has flourished in recent years as it is peaceful, unlike much of Iraq which remains wracked by violence seven years after the US-led invasion that toppled dictator Saddam Hussein.
"Four American persons are among the victims of the incident," an official from Sulaimaniyah City Hospital said, without giving any other details.
The victims from the Philippines, Sri Lanka and Cambodia worked for telecoms operator Asiacell, one of the three mobile communications companies in Iraq.
"We lost four engineers from our company, one of them a lady from the Philippines, and three of them men from Sri Lanka, Cambodia and Iraq," said Faruk Mula Mustafa, chairman of Asiacell.
Two other Iraqi employees were injured in the fire, he said.