A fire inside a packed wedding hall in Nineveh province in northern Iraq Tuesday killed more than 100 people and injured over 150 others.
The bride lost ten family members, including her mother and brother, and her father remains in critical condition. The groom also lost 15 relatives to the blaze.
In a video interview with Sky News on Saturday, the couple said they feel ‘dead inside.’
The wedding hall did not have sufficient emergency exits or a sprinkler system, and the groom says the only fire extinguisher at the venue did not work.
The building itself was made of materials that seemed similar to those used in Grenfell Tower in London, where a fire in 2017 killed 79 people, The New York Times reported on Saturday.
Mourners demand accountability. And while preliminary inspections blame indoor fireworks, the groom said a short-circuit in the ceiling might be the culprit instead.
In this investigation laden with sociopolitical complications, the question is – what do authorities have to say?
The district of Hamdaniya where the wedding took place has a majority Christian population, and the district was among many which ISIS fighters captured after declaring a caliphate from nearby Mosul, Iraq’s second-biggest city.
Most residents fled soon after, fearing persecution and death.
In 2016, Iraqi and international forces expelled the militants from Hamdaniya during a mission to defeat the group. Following which, many residents returned to their homeland.
The wedding hall where the fire took place was built in 2016 right after Hamdaniya was recaptured to encourage the return of normal life, Reuters reported on Thursday.
The context adds another grim layer to the plight of the Iraqi Christians, who have blamed irresponsible governance and longstanding political instability for Tuesday’s tragedy.
However, government officials have attributed the fire to the absence of safety and security measures and the use of highly flammable building materials used in the construction of the wedding hall.
Interior ministry spokesman Major General Saad Maan said in a post on X, formerly known as Twitter, that the fire spread rapidly and was aggravated by the release of toxic chemicals linked to the combustion of the plastic-containing composite panels in the building.
من نينوى.. وزير الداخلية يشدد على أن المقصرين في حادث قضاء الحمدانية سينالون جزاءهم العادل— سعد معن - Saad Maan (@saadmaanoficial) September 27, 2023
أكد وزير الداخلية السيد عبد الأمير الشمري، أن وفداً وزارياً نيابياً وصل محافظة نينوى، للوقوف على ملابسات حادث قضاء الحمدانية مساء أمس.
وبين سيادته أن القاعة التي حصل فيها… pic.twitter.com/OXoKjKSjXB
Investigations showed that the wedding hall was made of highly flammable metal composite panels, which was in violation of established safety standards, the Iraqi News Agency (INA) cited the Civil Defense Directorate as saying.
“The fire led to the collapse of parts of the hall as a result of the use of highly flammable, low-cost building materials that collapse within minutes when the fire breaks out,” the directorate said.