'We are dead inside': Groom from Iraq wedding fire that killed 107 people gives heartbreaking interview

The bride, whose mother and brother died in the blaze along with several other family members, has been 'unable to speak'


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Published: Mon 2 Oct 2023, 8:59 AM

Last updated: Mon 2 Oct 2023, 10:51 AM

What was supposed to be the most memorable time of their lives has become a nightmare for Iraq's newlyweds, Haneen and Ravan. Last week, the inferno at their wedding venue left loved ones and over 100 guests dead. The bride is now speechless, and her new husband feels devastated.

During an interview with Sky News, Revan said: "Inside we are dead. We are numb. We are dead inside." Revan added that 18-year-old Haneen is still in shock and "can't speak" after losing ten members of her family, leaving her father in intensive care in hospital.

The bride lost her mother and brother, while Revan lost 15 relatives when a fierce blaze engulfed the crowded wedding hall in Qaraqosh, situated near Mosul in Iraq, on Tuesday.

Sky News quizzed Revan on the cause of the blaze, which was initially blamed on indoor fireworks. He said it may have started on the ceiling. He said: "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. Then, the ceiling, which was all nylon, started to melt. It only took seconds."

Iraqi civil defence officials have attributed the highly flammable building material as the potential contributory factor in the rapid collapse of the wedding hall building. "Using flammable decoration helped the fire to spread quickly and transformed the hall to a fireball," said Interior Minister Abdel Amir al-Shammari.

Revan revealed that there was a sudden power outage moments before the couple took to the dance flood. When the lights were back, he saw fiery embers coming down from above. The 27-year-old groom helped his wife escape the blaze, who couldn't run out fast because of her voluminous wedding gown.

As the funeral, prayers, and mourning continue in the community, the couple say they can no longer live in their hometown.

Revan said, "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."

The town, also known as Hamdaniyah, is home to 26,000 Christians. The Iraqi Christians once driven from their village by Daesh are now drenched in a manmade tragedy that could have been averted.

Grave negligence

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. The owner of the hall and three other staff members had allowed 900 people into the venue when it was designed for a maximum of 400.

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 (13 feet) 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.


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