Dozens of men were watching a soccer match at the “Smile” cafe when the blast hit in the street below. Within minutes, a fire ripped through the Baghdad shopping mall where they were gathered, trapping them in a crowd on the second floor.
There were no fire exits, no firefighters. An iron gate to the roof was padlocked.
One of those watching the match, Majid Toamah, kicked a hole in an aluminum wall in the cafe and leaped 20 meters (yards) to the alley below. The 40-year-old broke both his legs. As he lay in agony, he looked up to see terrified faces staring out of the hole.
“They were too scared to jump. The face of one of them caught fire,” Toamah remembered. “In the end, they all died.”
At least 292 people died from the July 3 car bombing in Baghdad’s central Karradah district. Most of the deaths resulted not from the blast itself, but from the ensuing inferno, fed by a tinderbox of shops in two malls filled with clothing and oil-based perfumes for sale and lined with flammable panels. It was all worsened by a slow response by firefighters, building code violations – and a lack of water.
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