KUWAIT CITY, Aug 17 – The ex-wife of the groom at a Kuwait wedding party that turned into tragedy when a fierce fire engulfed a tent, killing 43 women and children, has confessed to starting the blaze, local newspapers reported on Monday.
Al-Qabas newspaper said the 23-year-old woman had told police she used petrol to torch the packed wedding tent 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 the fire — which engulfed the tent in just minutes — 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 woman’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 on Saturday night.
A total of 43 women and children have now perished and 90 other people were injured in the inferno, which destroyed the packed tent in the deadliest civilian disaster in the modern history of the Gulf state.
Last year, two women died and several others wounded in a similar incident in Jahra which lies 50 kilometres (30 miles) west of the capital and has a population of around 500,000, most of them tribespeople.
Most wedding parties in the conservative Muslim 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 will arrive on Monday 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 for wedding tents.
The interior ministry has advised citizens against setting up tents in residential areas because that would obstruct rescue operations.
Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah expressed deep sympathy with the families of the victims and said he will not accept greetings on the occasion of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan expected to start this weekend.
Several MPs have called on the government to declare a state of national mourning.