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Bride and groom 'in hiding' as investigators blame Iraq wedding blaze deaths on safety failures

by Reuters Journalist

A couple whose wedding turned to tragedy when fire tore through their reception venue, say they've had to go into hiding, and they feel "dead inside".  More than 100 people were killed when pyrotechnics were lit inside the hall in the city of Nineveh in northern Iraq.

The bride and groom claim they're being blamed for what happened and have had to leave their home.  27 year old Revan told Sky News his wife Haneen, who's only 18, lost ten of her relatives including her mother, and can't even talk anymore.

Meanwhile a government investigation into the disaster has declared the fire was caused by 'gross negligence' and a lack of safety measures.

The investigation results, announced at a news conference on Sunday by interior minister Abdul Amir al-Shammari, said 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.

“The fire was accidental and unintentional and occurred due to gross negligence,” the investigation findings said.

“Using flammable decoration helped the fire to spread quickly and transformed the hall to a fireball,” Shammari said.

The blaze trapped people inside the wedding hall and rescue teams struggled to reach them because exit doors were few and small, Shammari said.

At least 150 people were injured in the fire, which was in the Christian town of Hamdaniya - also known as Qaraqosh. 

The interior minister put the death toll at 107 and said the investigation panel had proposed that the government should provide financial support to families of the dead and injured.

The investigation also made recommendations that legal action should be taken against local officials.

Prime Minister Mohammed Shia Al-Sudani visited victims of the blaze at two local hospitals on Thursday and pledged to hold those responsible to account.

(additional reporting by Premier News)

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