The bride and groom of the Iraqi wedding where a horror inferno killed more than 100 of their guests survived after escaping through the kitchen door, it has been revealed.
Newlyweds Haneen and Revan, who were feared to have perished in the blaze, are now being treated in hospital and have been left in a ‘dire’ psychological situation.
The tragedy, which killed at least 113 people and injured 150 more, has plunged the northern town of Qaraqosh, near Mosul, into mourning as grieving families buried their loved ones and held a ceremony at The Cemetery of the Resurrection.
Survivors said hundreds of people were at the wedding celebration, which followed an earlier church service, and the fire began about an hour into the event when fireworks ignited a ceiling decoration while the bride and groom danced.
Video purportedly showed the newlyweds slow-dancing before Haneen, who was wearing a large white wedding dress, turned around in horror to see flames rapidly climbing the walls as burning material fell from the roof.
Newlyweds Haneen (L) and Revan (R), who were feared to have perished in the blaze, survived after escaping through the kitchen door, it has been revealed
This is the horrifying moment that a fire tore through the hall as the bride and groom danced at their wedding
The horror inferno, which killed at least 113 people and injured 150 more, has plunged the northern town of Qaraqosh, near Mosul, into mourning as grieving families buried their loved ones
Those who survived the inferno have described it as ‘hell’ with children as young as eight months old and entire families – including a couple and their three-year-old child – among the dead. Pictured: Mourners attend a mass following the fatal fire
Amid fears the bride and groom were killed in the blaze, it has now been revealed by Rudaw that they ran for their lives through the kitchen, narrowly avoiding death.
It’s understood the couple – who earlier beamed at cameras on what should have been a special day – are being treated at a hospital in Erbil, the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan, where sources told the news outlet that their psychological situation is ‘dire’.
The father of the groom also confirmed that the couple survived the blaze which tore through the large hall in the Christian town, which had survived ISIS occupation.
He told CNN: ‘I hold the owner of the hall responsible for what happened at the party because there are no extinguishers or safety measures in the hall.’
Another guest told private Iraqi channel Alawla TV: ‘The bride and groom are fine. I was just with them now, but their condition is devastating due to what happened to people here.’
Injured guests were transferred to hospitals for treatment in the nearby cities of Erbil, Mosul and Duhok.
Nader Salm, a 49-year-old translator from Qaraqosh – also known as Hamdaniya – told CNN that the wedding tragedy ‘hurt us more than ISIS’. The guest added: ‘At least when ISIS came we could escape, but now a wedding became a graveyard for us.’
Those who survived the inferno have described it as ‘hell’ with children as young as eight-months-old and entire families – including a couple and their three-year-old child – among the dead.
This image shows the wedding moments before the blaze. The couple who have survived have been left in a ‘dire’ psychological state
A firefighter checks the damage in an event hall in Qaraqosh, also known as Hamdaniyah, after a fire broke out during a wedding, killing at least 100 people on Wednesday
A victim lies at a hospital following a fatal fire at a wedding celebration in the district of Hamdaniya on Wednesday
Mourners are overcome with emotion during the funeral of victims of the fatal fire of a wedding celebration, in Hamdaniya on Wednesday
Family members are overcome with grief during a funeral of victims of the fatal fire at a cemetary in Hamdanya in Iraq on Wednesday
Rana Yakoub, 27, a victim of the fire is pictured, after a wedding celebration disaster, in the district of Hamdaniya in Mosul on Wednesday
Mourners carry a coffin of a victim of the fatal fire of a wedding celebration, during the funeral in Hamdaniya, Iraq, on Wednesday
Government officials have announced the arrest of 14 people over Tuesday night’s fire
Mourners attend a mass service following the fatal fire which sparked a horrifying tragedy
Hundreds of people attend the funeral of victims of the fatal fire of a wedding celebration, in Hamdanya, Iraq, on Wednesday
The Cemetery of the Resurrection lies about a mile north of Qaraqosh
‘This was not a wedding. This was hell,’ said Mariam Khedr, crying and hitting herself as she waited for officials to return the bodies of her daughter Rana Yakoub, 27, and three young grandchildren – the youngest being eight-months-old.
Government officials have announced the arrest of 14 people over Tuesday night’s fire, including the owners of the events hall, and promised a swift investigation with results announced within 72 hours.
The government has also ordered immediate inspections of large public gathering spaces such as hotels, schools and hospitals.
Three people who attended the wedding said the hall appeared poorly equipped for the disaster with no visible fire extinguishers and few exits. Fire fighters arrived 30 minutes after the blaze began, they said.
The United States, which led an invasion of the country in 2003, said on Wednesday it was ready to talk to the Iraqi government about any assistance it could offer.
A victim of the fatal fire at a wedding celebration lies at a hospital in Erbil, Iraq, on Wednesday
A child victim of the fatal fire at a wedding celebration lies at a hospital in Erbil, Iraq, on Wednesday
An injured child lays on a hospital bed after a fire broke out at a wedding celebration on Wednesday
The tragedy has revived memories of deadly fires that swept through two hospitals in Iraq in 2021, killing at least 174 people in all, that were at the time blamed on negligence, lax regulations and corruption.
Preliminary information indicated that the building was made of highly flammable construction materials, contributing to its rapid collapse, state media said.
‘We saw the fire pulsating, coming out of the hall. Those who managed got out and those who didn’t got stuck,’ said Imad Yohana, a 34-year-old who escaped the inferno.
A woman outside the morgue where bodies lay outside in bags as vehicles came to collect those that had been identified added: ‘I lost my daughter, her husband and their three-year-old. They were all burned. My heart is burning.’
On Wednesday, mourners dressed in black streamed towards the cemetery in Qaraqosh a line of pickup trucks drove past, carrying the dead for burial.
Hundreds gathered, many sobbing, as coffins were carried at shoulder height, some shrouded in white, one with a floral cloth, before being laid on the ground where distraught mourners tightly embraced as caskets were lowered into their graves.
This picture shows the burnt out interior of an event hall in Qaraqosh where the fire broke out during the wedding on Wednesday
The charred remains of chairs are seen in the gutted out wedding hall on Wednesday
Iraqi security officials inspect the site of the fire on Wednesday in Qaraqosh, near Mosul, Iraq
In a sermon interrupted at times by the wails of women clad in black, a priest at Al-Tahira Church in Qaraqosh – told mourners that Iraq had been united in grief but criticised officials for ‘your corruption, your favouritism.’
‘Nothing is up to standard in this country,’ he said as mourners, some crying, others holding pictures of the deceased, listened on.
‘We have to hold those who are responsible accountable, enough, enough!’
The terrifying blaze, which was caught on camera, sparked scenes of chaos, with the up to 900 panicked guests rushing towards the exits as the hall became engulfed in flames and filled up with toxic smoke in seconds.
Survivors said many were left trapped in the burning building as they couldn’t see through the black smoke.
A man called Youssef, who stood nearby with burns covering his hands and face, said he had not been able to see anything when the fire began and the power cut out. He had grabbed his three-year-old grandson and managed to get out.
But his wife, Bashra Mansour, in her 50s, did not make it. She fell in the chaos and died.
Hundreds of wedding guests, many of them children, were rushed to hospital with severe burns across their bodies, with many fighting for their lives.
Wedding guest Rania Waad, who sustained a burn to her hand, said that as Haneen and Revan ‘were slow dancing, the fireworks started to climb to the ceiling and the whole hall went up in flames’.
‘We couldn’t see anything,’ the 17-year-old said, choking back sobs. ‘We were suffocating, we didn’t know how to get out.’
Other wedding guests also said that the blaze was caused by fireworks, which had been set off during the first dance.
A man injured in the fire, speaking from his hospital bed, said: ‘They lit up fireworks. It hit the ceiling, which caught fire. The entire hall was on fire in seconds.’
Witnesses said the wedding hall caught fire at around 10.45pm local time (8.45pm UK time) during the couple’s first dance.
Video shows wedding guests dancing together before the newlyweds walked onto the dance floor.
Harrowing footage shows Haneen resting her head against Revan while he holds her waist as they share their first dance. But within minutes, the wedding turned into a nightmare as the blaze broke out, sending shards of burning material to the ground around them.
Panicked guests began running out of the burning building, but over 100 were trapped inside and died of burns and smoke inhalation.
Chaotic scenes were visible outside the building, with screaming guests crying for help from medics who had quickly arrived on the scene.
Injured wedding guests were later seen lying in hospital beds with bandages covering the burns they sustained in the horrific blaze.
Ahmed Dubardani, a health official in the province, said: ‘The majority of them were completely burned and some others had 50 to 60 per cent of their bodies burned.
‘This is not good at all. The majority of them were not in good condition.’
In the blaze’s aftermath, only charred metal and debris could be seen as emergency crews sifted through the scene of utter devastation.
Most residents of Qaraqosh, which is mostly Christian but also home to some members of Iraq’s Yazidi minority, fled the town when Islamic State seized it in 2014. But they returned after the group was ousted in 2017.
‘Yesterday there was a wedding and happiness. Now we are preparing their burial,’ said deacon Hani al-Kasmousa at Mar Youhanna church, where the wedding service took place before the evening celebrations.
When Pope Francis visited Qaraqosh in 2021, residents crowded the streets in bright clothes, with olive branches borne aloft and Assyrian hymns blared from loudspeakers to celebrate the inhabitants’ return after years of militant occupation.
Only about 300,000 Christians remain in Iraq after most of the 1.5 million who lived in the country fled during the chaos following the U.S.-led invasion, an exodus aggravated by Islamic State’s seizure of Ninevah plains towns in 2014.
On Wednesday, with dressy shoes, smart jackets and children’s things lying on the ground around the remains of the wedding hall, and most people around town wearing the black of mourning, Francis’ visit felt deep in the past.