A week after more than 100 guests were killed during a wedding ceremony in Iraq, a horrific video has now surfaced on social media platforms in which it shows the moment when the marriage hall turned into a mass graveyard.
The video starts with the bride and groom dancing to the music in front of hundreds of guests who were either enjoying the moment or having dinner with their loved ones. Within moments, however, disaster struck when an inferno erupted that would leave nearly 100 dead in the northern Iraqi wedding hall.
As the music played, ceiling panels above the machines burst into flames. The around 250 panicked guests in the Haitham Royal Wedding Hall in the predominantly Christian Hamdaniya area stampeded for the exits as flaming decorations and pieces of ceiling rained down on them.
As per the visuals, the guests were seen seated at long tables for the reception meal and later rushed to the exits. However, the electricity went out.
Survivors recall the horrific episode
Nabil Ibrahim, a guest, happened to be outside with one of his sons getting fresh air when the fire broke out. His wife, daughter and other son were still inside. He and his son rushed in, “and I saw people burning and screaming,” he recalled.
He and others tried to help people get out. He saw one unconscious woman being carried out, but later learned she died of suffocation. He eventually escaped through the kitchen and found the rest of his family outside.
With many trapped inside, someone brought a bulldozer and knocked a hole in the wedding hall wall, survivors said. But by that time, “most of the people inside had died,” Ibrahim said. Fortunately, many of the guests’ children were outside playing in a nearby playground when the fire erupted. “If they’d all been inside, they would have died,” he said.
Iraq’s prime minister ordered an investigation into the blaze. Interior Ministry spokesman Saad Maan said the primary forensic report described a “lack of safety and security measures” at the venue. Iraqi security forces arrested nine workers at the venue, said Abdullah Al-Jabouri, a security official who heads the Nineveh Operations Command.
One of the owners of the venue, Chonny Suleiman Naboo, blamed the fire on an “electrical fault in the ceiling.” Speaking to the AP, he insisted the venue had “all the officials’ approvals” and that his brother and the hall’s supervisor would turn themselves into authorities.
Experts say cheaper sandwich panels don’t always meet stricter safety standards and are especially dangerous on buildings without any breaks to slow or halt a possible blaze. That includes the 2017 Grenfell Fire in London that killed 72 people in the greatest loss of life in a fire on British soil since World War II, as well as multiple high-rise fires in the United Arab Emirates.
Similar panels have been blamed in several previous fires in Iraq. In July 2021, a blaze at a hospital in the Iraqi city of Nasiriyah that killed between 60 to 92 people was determined to have been fueled by sandwich panels
(With inputs from agency)