Tragedy strikes Iraqi Christian wedding as fire claims lives
A devastating fire swept through an Iraqi Christian wedding, transforming a joyous celebration into a scene of unimaginable sorrow. The tragedy unfolded in the northern city of Qaraqosh, where a massive portrait of Jesus Christ overlooked the somber crowd, parting to make way for a procession of coffins.
At the city’s cemetery, mourners from various churches gathered to pay their respects, offering prayers in Syriac and delivering sermons in Arabic. Gripped by grief, some held up portraits of their dearly departed loved ones.
Just a day before, those captured in those portraits had come together in an elegant banquet hall to witness a union of love. As the bride and groom danced in celebration, a sudden fire erupted within the reception hall, claiming the lives of at least 100 individuals and leaving 150 others injured.
Eyewitness accounts described how the fire rapidly spread, exacerbated by indoor fireworks that soared to such heights that they ignited ceiling decorations, engulfing the hall in flames.
On Wednesday, a solemn procession saw approximately 20 coffins, adorned with satin and bouquets of flowers, carried through the grieving crowd by mourners. Tears flowed freely as women, dressed in mourning black, were supported on either side, struggling to stand on their own.
One mourner, Samira, a 53-year-old housewife, spoke of burying 15 family members, from the eldest to a four-year-old child, her voice filled with melancholy. She mentioned the painful task of still having to bury a man and his twin daughters, whose bodies had not yet been recovered.
With a heavy heart, she said, “That’s enough, I can’t talk any more,” but her anguish compelled her to continue, stating, “There’s no sentiment possible; we’re all dead. There isn’t a single person who hasn’t lost a family member or a friend.”
At the cemetery, the crowd joined in chants of “Our Father” and “Hail Mary” before singing liturgical hymns. Some mourners declined to speak with journalists, while others knelt to kiss portraits of their lost loved ones.
The investigation into the tragedy revealed that the reception hall had been equipped with highly flammable prefabricated panels that violated safety standards.
These panels caught fire immediately upon contact with the indoor fireworks. Panic ensued as guests were caught in a stampede, hindered by the lack of sufficient emergency exits in the hall.
Survivor Ronak Sabih, 41, described the harrowing ordeal: “While the bride and groom were dancing, the sprays of sparks were activated… The flames were terrible.” He recounted his frantic efforts to rescue his family and others from the inferno, including calling the fire brigade and carrying out victims to seek medical help.
The Iraqi Christian community now grapples with an immeasurable loss, as the nation mourns the devastating consequences of this tragic wedding fire.