OAN’s Abril Elfi
1:59 PM – Saturday, September 30, 2023
A venue in Iraq set on fire during a wedding killed more than hundred people inside.
After a fire raced through a large celebration in Qaraqosh, in the Nineveh region of northern Iraq, the bride Haneen, 18, lost ten members of her family, including her mother and brother, while her new husband Revan, 27, lost 15 relatives.
The death toll continues to rise as more than 150 guests were critically or fatally injured by the fire.
“Inside we are dead. We are numb. We are dead inside,” Revan said.
Revan went on to say that his bride ‘can’t speak’ as a result of the accident, which has also left her father in critical condition.
More than 150 individuals were hurt by the flames, stifling smoke, or the stampede to exit the reception hall, which had been reduced to charred ruins and mounds of twisted furniture beneath a partially collapsed ceiling.
Indoor fireworks were suspected to be the source of the incident, which prompted a terrified stampede for the exits.
Videos circulating on social media show the reception with roughly 900 guests. In the footage the couple is seen having their first dance when a blaze appears as debris from the roof begins to start falling onto the guests.
“It could be a short-circuit, I don’t know. But the fire started in the ceiling. We felt the heat… When I heard the crackling I looked at the ceiling,” the groom said. “Then the ceiling, which was all nylon, started to melt. It only took seconds.”
He then stated that there was a power outage prior to their dance, which was then restored.
Revan claimed to have seen the fire coming from the ceiling at this point and because Haneen was unable to flee due to her bridal gown, he grabbed her and dragged her away from the blaze.
“I kept dragging her and trying to get her out of the kitchen entrance. As people were fleeing, people were trampling on her. Her legs are injured,” he said. “Our relatives, our friends, our loved ones are all gone,’ Revan said. They couple have now buried uncles, aunts and cousins as they still wait to hear about the condition of Haneen’s father.”
According to video footage posted online, flares shot up glittering flames that ignited ceiling ornaments before the fire enveloped extremely flammable construction materials.
Iraq’s official INA news agency stated that health officials “counted 100 dead and more than 150 injured in the fire at a marriage hall in Hamdaniya.”
Health ministry spokesman Saif al-Badr confirmed the death toll to AFP, saying the majority of the injured were being treated for burns, oxygen deprivation, and crush injuries.
The exact number of those dead or injured is still unknown as the Iraqi Red Crescent reported more than 450 casualties, without providing a breakdown of deaths and injuries.
Police and firefighters searched through the charred ruins of the reception hall on Wednesday, where mangled metal chairs lay strewn among the debris.
According to civil defense officials, the hall was outfitted with “extremely combustible and contravened safety requirements” prefabricated panels.
“The danger was compounded by the release of poisonous fumes associated with the combustion of the panels, which contained plastic,” reports stated. “Preliminary information indicated that indoor fireworks had started the fire.”
Videos of the funeral show hundreds of people mourning as around a hundred caskets are being presented. The footage shows the mourning of the couple as well as those who found remains and valuables of their loved ones on the site of the tragedy.
According to Interior Ministry spokesman General Saad Maan, nine members of the venue’s staff were arrested, and arrest warrants were issued for the venue’s four owners.
Iraqi Prime Minister Mohamed Shia al-Sudani declared three days of national mourning.
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