Iraq wedding fire: Bride and groom are ‘dead inside’ after blaze killed more than 100 – including 10 members of her family and 15 of his

A bride and groom said they have been left ‘dead inside’ after their wedding celebration ended in tragedy when at least 100 guests were killed in a devastating blaze.

Bride Haneen, 18, lost ten members of her family, including her mother and brother, while her new husband Revan, 27, lost 15 relatives after the fire ripped through a crowded celebration in Qaraqosh, in the Nineveh province of northern Iraq on Tuesday night.

‘Inside we are dead. We are numb. We are dead inside,’ Revan said after what should have been a period of celebration for the newlyweds.

Revan added that his bride ‘can’t speak’ following the disaster which has also left her father in critical condition. 

More than 150 people were injured by the flames, the choking smoke or in the crush to flee the reception hall, which was reduced to charred debris and piles of twisted furniture under a partially collapsed ceiling.

Officials pointed to indoor fireworks as the likely cause for the blaze that sparked a panicked stampede for the exits.

Newlyweds Haneen (L) and Revan (R), who were feared to have perished in the blaze, survived after escaping through the kitchen door, it has been revealed

A blaze is seen in the roof of the wedding venue in Qaraqosh, in the Nineveh province of northern Iraq on Tuesday night

Video showed the bride and groom slow-dancing surrounded by indoor fireworks and their some 900 guests sat around on tables.

Above them, a blaze appears to come from the ceiling as debris falls down and onto the guests who run for the exit.

Officials initially suggested the indoor fireworks were the cause of the inferno, but Revan told Sky News it could have started in the ceiling. 

‘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,’ he told the news outlet.

‘Then the ceiling, which was all nylon, started to melt. It only took seconds.’

He said there was a power cut before their dance that then came back on. It was at this point Revan said he saw the fire coming from the ceiling.

Haneen was unable to flee because of her wedding dress, so Revan 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 told Sky News.

‘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. 

The couple said they would no longer be able to live in their home town and that their happiness had been ‘destroyed’.

A bride and groom (pictured left) said they have been left ‘dead inside’ after their wedding celebration ended in tragedy when at least 100 guests were killed in a devastating blaze

The fire is pictured as the 900 wedding guests flee to safety, with many dying and getting injured in the crush

People initially react as debris stats to fall from the ceiling, moments before they try to escape the venue

Martin Idriss, 19, who was working in the kitchen when the fire broke out Tuesday evening in the venue in the mainly Christian northern city of Qaraqosh said: ”I thought there had been an explosion.’

‘The flames were devouring the whole hall,’ he said.

‘When I went back in, I saw the charred bodies of three children,’ he said, adding the venue’s emergency exits had proved ‘inadequate’ for the hundreds of guests trying to escape.

Early reports and unverified video footage online suggested flares shot up sparkling flames that ignited ceiling decorations before the fire engulfed highly flammable construction materials.

Health authorities ‘counted 100 dead and more than 150 injured in the fire at a marriage hall in Hamdaniyah’, as the city is also known, Iraq’s official INA news agency reported in what it called a ‘preliminary tally’.

The casualty toll was confirmed to AFP by health ministry spokesman Saif al-Badr, who said most of the injured were being treated for burns, oxygen deprivation and crush injuries.

But the director of health services in Nineveh, Mansour Marouf, on Wednesday afternoon said 94 people had died, with their bodies transported to different hospitals.

Only 30 of those had been immediately identified by their families, he told a news conference.

The inferno, which killed at least 113 people and injured 150 more, has plunged the northern town of Qaraqosh, near Mosul, into mourning as grieving families buried their loved ones

Mourners attend a mass following the fatal fire. The survivors have described it as ‘hell’ with children as young as eight months old and entire families – including a couple and their three-year-old child – among the dead

A firefighter checks the damage in the event hall in Qaraqosh

A victim lies at a hospital following a fatal fire at a wedding celebration in the district of Hamdaniya on Wednesday 

Mourners are overcome with emotion during the funeral of victims of the fatal fire of a wedding celebration, in Hamdaniya on Wednesday

Family members are overcome with grief during a funeral of victims 

Mourners carry a coffin of a victim during the funeral in Hamdaniya, Iraq, on Wednesday

Government officials have announced the arrest of 14 people over Tuesday night’s fire

The Iraqi Red Crescent meanwhile reported more than 450 casualties, without providing a breakdown of deaths and injuries.

Wedding guest Rania Waad, 17, who suffered burns to her hand, said that as the bride and groom ‘were slow dancing, the fireworks (flames) started to climb to the ceiling (and) the whole hall went up in flames’.

‘We couldn’t see anything,’ she said, choking back sobs. ‘We were suffocating. We didn’t know how to get out.’

At the city’s main hospital, an AFP photographer saw ambulances with sirens blaring and dozens of people gathering to donate blood, while bodies in black bags were being loaded onto a refrigerated truck.

On Wednesday, police and firefighters sifted through the charred remains of the reception hall where mangled metal chairs lay strewn amid the debris.

Civil defence authorities said the hall had been fitted with prefabricated panels that were ‘highly flammable and contravened safety standards’.

The danger was compounded by the ‘release of toxic gases linked to the combustion of the panels’, which contained plastic, they said in a statement.

‘Preliminary information’ suggested indoor fireworks had ignited the blaze, they said.

Nine of the venue’s staff were arrested and arrest warrants issued for its four owners, interior ministry spokesman General Saad Maan told AFP.

Mourners attend a mass service following the fatal fire which sparked a horrifying tragedy 

Hundreds of people attend the funeral to pay their respects as the community mourns

A young victim of the fire lies at a hospital in Erbil, Iraq, on Wednesday

A child is among the 150 victims recovering, and is being cared for at a hospital in Erbil, Iraq

A child is among the 150 victims recovering, and is being cared for at a hospital in Erbil, Iraq

This picture shows the burnt out interior of an event hall in Qaraqosh where the fire broke out during the wedding on Wednesday

The charred remains of chairs are seen in the gutted out wedding hall on Wednesday

Iraqi security officials inspect the site of the fire on Wednesday in Qaraqosh, near Mosul, Iraq 

Iraqi Prime Minister Mohamed Shia al-Sudani declared three days of national mourning.

He also ordered ‘intensified periodic inspections’ of entertainment venues nationwide to ‘ensure that safety measures are followed’ and to ‘identify any non-compliant buildings’.

Safety standards in Iraq’s construction sector are often disregarded, and the country, whose infrastructure is in disrepair after decades of conflict, is often the scene of fatal fires and accidents.

In July 2021, a fire in hospital Covid unit killed more than 60 people in southern Iraq.

And in April of the same year, oxygen tanks exploded and triggered a fire at a Baghdad hospital also threating Covid patients, killing more than 80 people.

Qaraqosh, like many Christian cities in the Nineveh Plains northeast of Mosul, was ransacked by jihadists of the Islamic State group after they entered the city in 2014.

The city and its churches were slowly rebuilt after the group’s ouster in 2017, and Pope Francis visited it in March 2021.

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