Tragedy struck a wedding hall in Qaraqosh, Iraq, as a devastating fire claimed over 100 lives on Tuesday night. The town, also known as Hamdaniya, had previously endured occupation by the Islamic State. Firefighters tirelessly searched through the wreckage, while grieving relatives gathered outside a Mosul morgue, their anguish palpable.
Reports from Qaraqosh suggest the bride and groom may have survived, though confirmation is pending. Mariam Khedr, in her grief, lamented the loss of her daughter, Rana Yakoub, 27, and three young grandchildren, with the youngest just eight months old. She described the scene as a nightmarish ordeal rather than a joyous celebration.
Survivors recounted that hundreds had gathered for the wedding, following a church service. Tragedy struck about an hour into the festivities when flares ignited a decorative ceiling, engulfing the venue in flames.
Deputy Governor Hassan al-Allaf of Nineveh province confirmed 113 fatalities, while the Red Crescent branch head indicated the toll was not yet final but surpassed a hundred injured and dozens deceased. Videos circulated on social media, capturing the sudden escalation from merriment to panic as the fire consumed the hall.
Iraq’s Interior Ministry issued arrest warrants for the hall owners, and President Abdul Latif Rashid called for a thorough investigation. One owner has since been apprehended. Attendees revealed the hall’s inadequacy in fire safety measures, lacking visible extinguishers and sufficient exits. Firefighters arrived half an hour after the blaze erupted.
The building’s use of highly flammable materials contributed to its rapid collapse, preliminary reports indicated. Outside the morgue, grief-stricken individuals awaited the return of identified bodies. Youssef, his hands and face bearing burns, recounted a frantic escape with his three-year-old grandson. However, his wife, Bashra Mansour, tragically lost her life in the chaos.
This heartbreaking incident serves as a grim reminder of the need for stringent safety measures in public spaces, especially venues hosting large gatherings. As investigations unfold, questions about regulatory compliance and safety protocols will likely take center stage in discussions surrounding this devastating event.