Children light candles near pictures of victims of the fatal fire at a wedding celebration, in Hamdaniya, Iraq. Reuters
The tragedy struck the northern Iraqi town of Qaraqosh, a centre of Iraq’s small Christian community near Mosul, in a wedding hall with a capacity of “no more than 400 people,” Interior Minister Abdel Amir Al Shammari told a press conference.
That night, it held in excess of 900 people, he said, confirming the blaze on the night of Sept.26 was an accident.
Public anger has flared over the high death toll, which General Saad Faleh, head of the commission investigating the tragedy, said currently stands at 107.
Shammari said those fired include: the mayor of Qaraqosh; the municipal director; the tourism and recreation division head; an electricity official; and the chief of firefighting and security in Nineveh province’s Civil Defence corps. The Civil Defence chief will face a disciplinary committee, Shammari added.
Both bride and groom survived the fire.
In addition to negligence the officials were fired for “failures in the exercise of their duties,” he said. “The mayor was negligent: the hall was built illegally on the land, but the mayor authorised its going into service, without the approval of other public agencies,” the minister said.
Civil Defence had carried out an inspection of the site earlier this year and the owner was ordered to remove the ceiling by October because of its highly-flammable materials, he added.
The “main cause” of the fire was four fireworks that shot showers of sparks four metres high, Faleh said, adding that these ignited the prefabricated panels in the ceiling and also the hall’s decorations.
Shammari said the hall’s owner, thinking that a short circuit had started the fire, cut the electricity and plunged the room into darkness, provoking “chaos, panic and a stampede.”
Of the 14 people arrested earlier by security forces, four, including the venue’s owner, were directly responsible for installing the fireworks, Faleh said.
Women mourn over the coffin of one of the victims of the wedding hall fire in Qaraqosh. AFP
Both bride and groom survived the fire. Safety standards are often poorly observed in Iraq, a country still recovering from decades of dictatorship, war and unrest that remains plagued by corruption, mismanagement and often dilapidated infrastructure.
Public discontent flared into a nationwide protest movement that began in October, 2019. Nearly 500 demonstrators gathered on Sunday in Baghdad’s Tahrir Square to commemorate the anniversary, which police — met with stones hurled by the protesters — dispersed with sound grenades, a photographer said.
"The fire caused some parts of the ceiling to fall due to the use of highly flammable, low-cost construction materials," the statement said, with "preliminary information" suggesting fireworks were to blame for the blaze.
"We still have to bury a man and his two twin daughters. They're dead but we haven't recovered the bodies," she added. Other burials are planned in the coming days.
Recently, Parineeti was seen wearing a silver band on her ring finger. As per media reports, Parineeti and Raghav got engaged in a traditional roka ceremony in the presence of close family members.
Their Highnesses expressed their sincere condolences and sympathies to the family of the deceased and his brothers Hamid Bin Nasser Al Owais, Abdulaziz Bin Nasser Al Owais, and his mercy bin Nasser Al Owais, and to his sons Ali, Abdul Rahman, Saqr, his mercy, and Abdullah Bin Muhammad Al Owais, asking the Almighty God to cover the deceased with his vast mercy and forgiveness, and to reside in his spacious paradise. And inspire his family with patience and solace.
An Israel-Hamas truce in the Gaza Strip stretched into a fifth day on Tuesday as the two sides completed the release of Israeli hostages and detained Palestinians under their original ceasefire deal and appeared poised to free more.
This diversion will be in place from 7:00 am to 11:00 am over three days - from Dec.1 to Dec.3. The measure coincides with the UAE’s Union Day celebrations and its hosting of COP28.