KUWAIT – The second tragic wedding fire in less than six months left Kuwaitis reeling. Many are demanding measures to prevent recurrences and to seek accountability for those responsibly for the massive human losses. On February 25, there was a blaze in the women’s enclosure at a wedding in Al-Johra that left three dead and 100 others injured. The cause of the fire has not been identified; but reports indicated that an electrical short circuit may have triggered it.
Just six months later, on August 15 and in the same governorate, a fire swept through the women’s tent at another wedding. This time, the toll was 41 dead. Most of the victims were women, but five children also lost their lives. More than 100 people were also injured.
The latest fire was started deliberately, the Ministry of the Interior confirmed just two days after the incident, and it announced the arrest of a suspect without revealing either identity or motive. The Kuwaiti press, however, reported that the bridegroom’s first wife admitted that she struck a match to set the wedding tent afire after dousing it with a gallon of fuel. She allegedly said that it had not occurred to her that people might die as a result.
Kuwaitis are alarmed at the ineffectiveness of safety measures observed by wedding planners and owners of function halls or wedding marquees/tents. Many of them ignore safety procedures, despite extensive regulations designed to prevent such incidents from occurring.
One thing is certain. The two venues where the incidents occurred were not equipped to prevent or deal with fires or accidents. Exits did not comply with regulations, and the ensuing panic may have contributed to the high number of victims in the latter tragedy, given that escaping from a cloth structure should have been easier than exiting from a concrete building.
Principal sources: Kuwait news agency, KUNA/ Kuwaiti press