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Kuwait fire: Forty Indians were among 49 killed when fire swept through an apartment building

Kuwait fire: Forty Indians were among 49 killed when fire swept through an apartment building
Comment on the photo, Many of the building’s residents were from Kerala and Tamil Nadu

  • author, Robert Greenall
  • Role, London

The Indian Foreign Ministry said that at least 40 Indians were among 49 people killed in a fire that broke out in a residential building in the Kuwaiti city of Mangaf.

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

A video clip circulated on social media showed flames sweeping the lower part of the building and thick black smoke billowing from the upper floors.

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

The infected also include Filipino and Nepalese workers.

Two-thirds of Kuwait’s population consists of foreign workers, and the country relies heavily on migrant labor, especially in the construction and domestic sectors.

Human rights groups have regularly raised concerns about their living conditions.

Local media reports said the building was housing 196 workers, and there are suggestions it may have been overcrowded.

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

“Dozens were rescued, but unfortunately many died as a result of inhaling smoke from the fire,” he added, adding that warnings were often issued about overcrowding in this type of accommodation.

Sheikh Al-Sabah, who is also acting Minister of Interior, told Reuters news agency, “Unfortunately, it was the greed of real estate owners that led to this.”

“They are violating the regulations and this is the result of the violations,” he said.

Comment on the photo, Kirti Vardhan Singh, Indian Minister of State, is in Kuwait to oversee assistance to fire victims

Interior Ministry spokesman Major General Eid Al-Owaihan told state television that the fire was reported at 06:00 local time (03:00 GMT) on Wednesday. It was later controlled.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi sent his condolences to the victims and their families.

“The fire incident in Kuwait City is sad,” he said on Channel X.

“My thoughts are with all those who lost their loved ones and dear ones. I pray that those affected recover as soon as possible.”

He added that the Indian embassy is monitoring the situation and working with authorities on the ground.

Kirti Vardhan Singh, a minister of state in the government who left for Kuwait on Thursday morning, said that DNA tests had been conducted to identify the victims.

“An Air Force plane is on standby. Once the bodies are identified, their relatives will be informed and the Air Force plane will return the bodies,” he told news agency ANI.

An eyewitness, Manikandan, from the Indian state of Tamil Nadu, told the BBC that many of the workers were working night shifts.

“Once the fire started, it spread quickly. The people living in the building were unable to control the fire.”

Comment on the photo, Stephen Saboo from Kottayam district in Kerala is one of the Indians who died in the fire

In India, the families of the identified victims are shocked.

Omaruddin Shamir from Kollam district in Kerala worked as a driver for an oil company in Kuwait.

A neighbor who picked up the phone at his home in Kollam said his family was shocked after hearing of his death.

“He got married just nine months ago when he came on a visit here,” the neighbor told BBC Hindi anonymously. “His parents are not in a position to talk to anyone.”

Stephen Saboo, 29, was due to return to his home in the Kottayam district of Kerala next month, a family acquaintance told BBC Hindi.

“His father is sick and his mother is unable to speak,” Babu Mathew, a member of the local church, told BBC Hindi.

“Steven was scheduled to arrive next month for the move-in party for the house he built.”

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

Ashrafunesa from Villupuram in Tamil Nadu state says she has not spoken to her husband, Mohammed Sharif, for two days. He had been working as a foreman in Kuwait for the past decade and lived in the building that was destroyed.

“I last spoke to him on Tuesday afternoon. I haven’t been able to contact him since,” she says.

Additional reporting by BBC Tamil)