Fire at Saudi wedding kills 28 people

A fire sparked by celebratory gunfire has killed at least 25 people at a wedding in Saudi Arabia, media reported on Wednesday.

The bullets struck electric decorations that triggered a short-circuit, igniting a women-only marquee at the wedding on Tuesday night in Eastern Province, said Al-Yaoum newspaper, citing civil defence chief General Abdullah Khsheiman.

Al-Yaoum, which is based in the province, said at least 28 people died in the fire, although various other reports put the death toll at 25, all of them women and children.

“At the wedding, the cable fell on a metal door and those who died were all electrocuted,” Khsheiman said by phone.

The governor of the oil-rich region, Prince Mohammed bin Fahd bin Abdul Aziz, ordered a prompt investigation into the incident, the Okaz daily reported. Only women and small children were in the tent in line with strict rules of segregation in the ultra-conservative Muslim kingdom.

A photograph of the aftermath of the accident, published on local newspapers’ websites showed a large courtyard strewn with fallen chairs and a pole in the middle supporting cables carrying lightbulbs. All those killed were from the same tribe, Khsheiman said. Thirty others were injured in the incident near Abqaiq, a centre of the Saudi energy industry.

Saudi Arabia banned the shooting of firearms at weddings, a popular tradition in tribal areas of the conservative Islamic kingdom, last month.

In July 1999, at least 76 people died in a similar incident in Eastern Province.

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