Qaraqosh Wedding Tragedy: Investigating the Devastating Blaze

( – Tragedy struck at a Christian wedding in Iraq early last week. The fire killed almost 100 people and left many others injured. The event took place in the northern town of Qaraqosh at a large event venue called al-Haitham Hall.
The town of Qaraqosh, also known as Bajhida is located about nine miles south-east of the larger city of Mosul. The city has been under a level of assault for some time; it was once the largest Christian city in the country having about 50,000 residents. In 2014 it was overrun and terrorized by Sunni Muslims of the Islamic State and has only rebuilt to about half its former size.
Investigators are looking into what may have cause the fire. Witnesses describe several fireworks displays during the roughly 1,100 person event. The ceiling was made of sandwich panels covered with vinyl and fabric which could have been set alight by the fireworks. Attendees say the falling ceiling was hitting guests on their heads as they became dislodged. A 17-year old girl who was in attendance and is recovering from a hand burn said that as the fireworks climbed toward the ceiling “the whole hall went up in flames.” Video from the event seems to backup the fireworks igniting the ceiling theory.
The bride and groom survived the fire with minor burns but 98 guests have been confirmed dead. Among the 98 dead were families and children according to statements posted online from surviving guests.
Authorities have so far arrested ten members of the venue’s staff, the owner and three individuals they say are responsible for setting off the fireworks. The local Prime Minister said he expects the investigation to identify those responsible and after trial give “the toughest punishments permitted by law.” He has additionally ordered authorities to review all buildings, restaurants, shopping centers and other venues for potential code issues and possible safety hazards.

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