'Scorned ex-wife' started Kuwait wedding inferno

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The Independent Online

The fire which roared through a tent at a Kuwaiti wedding reception on Saturday, killing 43 women and children, was deliberately started by the ex-wife of the bridegroom, Kuwaiti newspapers claimed yesterday.

They reported that the "woman scorned" was spotted by maids setting the tent ablaze with kerosene-soaked rags, and that she confessed to the crime after being arrested. According to the local Al-Qabas newspaper, the 23-year-old woman, who was not named, admitted to police that she had used petrol to start the fire in revenge for the "bad treatment" she had suffered at her then-husband's hands before their divorce.

A spokesman for the emirate's Interior Ministry, Colonel Mohammed al-Saber, told state television: "We have identified the perpetrator, who confessed to committing the crime for personal reasons."

According to local reports, the bride escaped with her life but her mother and a sister were killed.

The fierce blaze consumed the crowded tent in minutes, leaving corpses blackened and unrecognisable. Forty-one of the victims died on the spot, and two more who had been taken to hospital with severe burns died yesterday. Dozens of shoes glued to the ground near the tent's only exit point indicated that many were trampled in a desperate attempt to escape. At least seven of the dead were children.

Dozens of the injured remain in hospital, several in a critical condition with severe burns. Agence France Presse reported that specialised medical teams were on their way from Britain and Germany to treat the victims.

The worst civil disaster in Kuwait's history, it follows a similar fire in Jahra last year which took the lives of two women. The state government announced that it had set up a high-level committee to investigate the fire, stung by criticism that safety rules for wedding tents had not been applied.