Saturday, July 20, 2024

Kuwait fire: 49 people, including 40 Indians, died in a fire in a residential complex

image caption, Many of the residents of the building are from the states of Kerala and Tamil Nadu

  • author, By Robert Green
  • stock, London

At least 40 Indians, including at least 40 Indians, have been killed in a fire at a residential building in Mangaf, Kuwait, the Indian External Affairs Ministry said.

A fire broke out in a building housing dozens of workers on Wednesday.

A video shared on social media showed the lower part of the building engulfed in flames and thick black smoke billowing from the upper floors.

Officials said many of the victims were from the southern Indian states of Kerala and Tamil Nadu. Around 50 Indians were also injured.

The injured included Filipino and Nepali workers.

Two-thirds of Kuwait’s population are foreign workers and the country is heavily dependent on migrant workers, particularly in the construction and domestic sectors.

Human rights organizations continue to raise concerns about their living conditions.

Local media reports said the building had 196 workers and may have been overcrowded.

A senior police official told state television that a “large number” of people were in the building at the time of the fire.

“Dozens were rescued, but unfortunately many died as a result of smoke inhalation from the fire,” he said, adding that warnings were often issued about overcrowding in these types of shelters.

“Unfortunately it was the greed of the property owners that led to this,” Sheikh al-Sabah, who also serves as interior minister, told Reuters news agency.

“They are breaking the rules and this is the result of the violations,” he said.

image caption, Kirti Vardhan Singh, a junior minister from India, is in Kuwait to oversee aid to fire victims.

The fire broke out at 06:00 local time (03:00 GMT) on Wednesday, Interior Ministry spokesman Maj-General Eid al-Ayhan told state television. It was later brought under control.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has condoled with the deceased and their families.

“The fire in Kuwait City is sad,” he told X.

“My thoughts are with all those who have lost near and dear ones. I pray for the speedy recovery of those injured.”

He said the Indian embassy was monitoring the situation and working with officials on the ground.

Junior government minister Kirti Vardhan Singh, who left for Kuwait on Thursday morning, said DNA tests were being carried out to identify the victims.

“An Air Force plane is ready. Once the bodies are identified, the next of kin will be informed and our Air Force plane will bring the bodies,” he told news agency ANI.

An eyewitness, Manikandan, from India’s Tamil Nadu state, told BBC Tamil that many of the workers were on night shifts.

“Some of the people who returned to that apartment early in the morning were returning from work and cooking,” he said.

image caption, Stephen Sabu from Kerala’s Kottayam district was one of the Indians who died in the fire

Back in India, the families of the identified victims are in shock.

Umaruddin Shameer from Kollam district of Kerala was working as a driver in an oil company in Kuwait.

His family was shocked to hear the news of his death when a neighbor picked up the phone at his home in Kollam.

“He got married nine months ago when he visited here,” a neighbor told BBC Hindi, without revealing his identity. His parents were not in a position to talk to anyone.

Another victim, Stephen Sabu, 29, is due to leave for Kerala’s Kottayam district next month, a person familiar with the family told BBC Hindi.

“His father is sick and his mother cannot speak,” Babu Mathew, a member of the local church, told BBC Hindi.

“Stephen was coming to a housewarming party next month at the house he built.”

Others say they are anxiously awaiting news of their loved ones.

Ashrafunnisa from Villupuram in Tamil Nadu says she has not spoken to her husband Mohammad Sharif for two days. He had been working as a foreman in Kuwait for the past ten years and was living in a collapsed building.

“I last spoke to him on Tuesday afternoon. I couldn’t meet him after that,” he says.

(Additional reporting by BBC Tamil)

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