World

Bride and groom can’t live in their community after 100 guests died in fire at their wedding

A bride and groom, whose wedding celebration ended in disaster after a fire killed more than 100 of their guests, have told Sky News they are “dead inside” following the tragedy.

Revan, 27, and bride, Haneen, 18, survived the blaze, which started inside a packed wedding hall in Qaraqosh, in the Nineveh province of northern Iraq.

At least 150 others were also injured.

Revan said he lost 15 members of his family in the fire, adding his bride “can’t speak” after the loss of 10 of her relatives, including her mother and brother. Her father is also in a critical condition.

“It’s true that we’re sitting here in front of you alive. But inside we are dead. We are numb. We are dead inside,” he said.

Groom Revan, 27, and his bride, Haneen, 18
Image:
Revan, 27, and Haneen, 18, say they can no longer stay in their hometown

The wedding on Tuesday night is understood to have had around 900 guests, with the fire starting at around 10.45pm.

While initial reports suggested fireworks lit for the couple’s slow dance were to blame for the blaze, Revan believes the fire somehow 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 said.

It is not known if the bride and groom survived the inferno
Image:
Revan and Haneen on their wedding day

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

Video footage shared shortly after the tragedy shows the couple dancing as burning pieces of material fell from the roof.

It was during the dance, he said, a power cut took place – and when the electricity came back on he “saw fire” in the ceiling.

It was then that people started to “scream” and “run away”.

He went on to describe helping his wife who couldn’t walk because of her wedding gown.

“I grabbed my wife and I began to drag her. 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.”

Revan said there was only one fire extinguisher, which “didn’t work”.

Describing how events unfolded, he said two small fireworks were lit as they started to dance, followed by four more a few minutes later.

An image from inside the venue before the fire. Pic: Rudaw
Image:
An image from inside the venue before the fire. Pic: Rudaw

Fireworks appear to set fire to a hall hosting a wedding in Iraq
Image:
An image of the ceiling decoration as the fire takes hold

He said his father had asked questions about the risk of such fireworks causing sparks which could “land on the bride’s gown” and “catch fire” but had been told by the hall owners that the fireworks were electric, so “you could put your hand or even plastic [on it] and it won’t burn”.

The young couple can only mourn. “Our relatives, our friends, our loved ones are all gone.. Two days ago we buried her [Haneen’s] uncle and his two daughters. Yesterday we buried her other uncle. Today we buried his daughter and we buried her mother. Her father is in a critical condition. We don’t know what his condition is,” Revan said.

“My aunt died. My sister had burns. Her husband has burns all over his body. My uncle lost 7 members. So many people. And every day we hear more news.”

The disaster means they can no longer stay in their hometown. “That’s it, we can’t live here anymore. We can’t live here anymore. I mean every time we try to have some happiness, something tragic happens to us and destroys the happiness. So, it’s best for us to leave,” he said.

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He added: “On the wedding night… why did this happen? What did we do? Why did this happen?”

Highly flammable building materials have been pointed to by both civil defence officials and state media as a potential contributory factor to the building’s rapid collapse.

Following the fire, Iraq’s Prime Minister Mohammed Shia’ al Sudani said on social media that he had contacted the provincial governor of Nineveh and his country’s home and health ministers, directing them “to mobilise all efforts to provide relief to those affected by the unfortunate incident”.

Qaraqosh, also known as Hamdaniya, is a Christian town, and survived Islamic State occupation.

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