The ex-wife of the groom at a Kuwait wedding where a raging fire killed 43 women and children has confessed to starting the blaze as an act of revenge, local newspapers reported yesterday.
Al-Qabas newspaper said the 23-year-old woman had told police she used petrol to torch a wedding tent packed with women and children to avenge her ex-husband’s “bad treatment” of her before their divorce.
Interior ministry spokesman Colonel Mohammad Al Saber told state-run Kuwait Television that Saturday’s fire—which engulfed the tent in just minutes and triggered a panicked stampede—was an act of arson.
“We have identified the perpetrator who confessed to committing the crime for personal reasons,” Saber said, without giving any further details.
“’Spurned’ woman unleashed fury,” was the headline in the English-language Kuwait Times newspaper, which said the bride escaped injured but that her mother and sister were killed.
Quoting unnamed security sources, Al-Qabas said the first wife’s Asian maid told police she saw her pouring petrol around the large women-only tent in the town of Jahra before the blaze started.
A total of 43 women and children have now perished and 90 other people were injured in the inferno, fire chief General Jassem Al Mansuri said, the deadliest civilian disaster in the modern history of the Gulf state.
“It was a horrific scene with bodies and many shoes stuck to the ground at the only exit. They must have trampled over one another,” Mansuri was quoted as saying in Kuwait’s Arab Times.
Last year, two women died and several others wounded in a similar incident in Jahra which lies 50km west of the capital and has a population of around 500,000, most of them tribesmen.
Most wedding parties in the conservative Gulf state are segregated in line with local tradition.
Mansuri said on Sunday that most of the bodies were charred beyond recognition and that forensic officials were working to identify the victims.
Sixteen of the dead were buried on Sunday while forensics officials are still busy trying to establish the identities of the other victims. At least seven of the dead are children. Of the 90 wounded, about five remain in critical condition with severe burns.
Medical officials have said that specialised medical teams from Germany and Britain were to arrive yesterday to treat the injured. The government of the oil-rich state has formed a high-level committee to investigate the incident amid sharp criticism by lawmakers that authorities were too slow in the rescue operations.
A number of MPs have demanded a probe into why authorities failed to apply strict safety and security rules to wedding tents.
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