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Kuwait fire tragedy claims 49 lives, mostly Indians: What we know so far about Mangaf labour camp mayhem

Kuwait Interior Ministry said that the death toll from the tragic fire has reached 49. More than 40 of the dead were Indians while over 50 Indian nationals were injured in the fire.

Edited By: Ajeet Kumar @Ajeet1994 New Delhi Updated on: June 13, 2024 12:13 IST
Kuwait's Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defense and acting Interior Minister, Fahad Yusuf Al-
Image Source : REUTERS Kuwait's Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defense and acting Interior Minister, Fahad Yusuf Al-Sabah speaks with police officers in front of a burnt building, following a deadly fire, in Mangaf, southern Kuwait

New Delhi: A massive fire engulfed a six-storey building in Kuwait housing foreign workers early on Wednesday, killing at least 49 people, mostly Indians, and injuring more than 50 others, according to officials. Most deaths were due to smoke inhalation while residents were sleeping, and a significant number of occupants were evacuated, they added. The fire started in a kitchen in the building in the Mangaf area in Kuwait's southern Ahmadi Governorate, officials said, adding that the building reportedly had 195 people living in it, who are workers of the same company.

Kuwait Home Ministry confirms 49 killed in building fire 

In a statement, the Interior Ministry said that the death toll from the tragic fire has reached 49, the Kuwait Times newspaper reported. More than 40 of the dead were Indians while over 50 Indian nationals were injured in the fire, officials said, adding that the remaining ones were Pakistani, Filipino, Egyptian and Nepali nationals.

VIDEO: Kuwait's Deputy Prime Minister and Minister at tragedy site

The ministry said that criminal evidence department personnel are currently working on identifying the victims on-site and revealing the cause of the fire and added that strict measures will be taken against building owners who violate the law. "Unfortunately, we received a report of a fire at... exactly 6:00 am (0830 IST) in the Mangaf area," Major General Eid Al-Owaihan, head of the Interior Ministry’s General Department of Criminal Evidence, said.

READ: Kuwait fire: Bodies charred beyond recognition, Air Force plane will bring them back, says MoS Kirti Vardhan

Majority of killed in fire are Indians 

The majority of the deceased were Indian nationals from Kerala, Tamil Nadu, and north Indian states. Their ages ranged between 20 and 50 years, he was quoted as saying by the English language daily Arab Times. The building is rented by the NBTC group. Five firefighters sustained injuries during the rescue operation, sources said.

Jaishankar speaks to his Kuwaiti counterpart 

External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar spoke to his Kuwaiti counterpart Abdullah Ali Al-Yahya who apprised him of the efforts made by Kuwaiti authorities after the fire. "Was assured that the incident would be fully investigated and that responsibility will be fixed," Jaishankar said on X. Jaishankar also urged the early repatriation of the mortal remains of those who lost their lives and emphasised that those injured were getting the requisite medical attention.

READ: Kuwait fire: Indian Embassy releases emergency contact number as Indians killed in building fire I Details

The minister added that he would review the situation after Minister of State for External Affairs Kirti Vardhan Singh reached Kuwait on Thursday to oversee assistance to Indians injured in the fire and to ensure early repatriation of mortal remains of those killed. "In connection with the tragic fire accident involving Indian workers today, the Embassy has put in place an emergency helpline number: +965-65505246. All concerned are requested to connect over this helpline for updates. The embassy remains committed to rendering all possible assistance," the Indian Embassy in Kuwait said in a post on X.

Indians constitute 21 per cent (1 million) of the total population of Kuwait and 30 per cent of its workforce (approximately 9 lakhs).

PM Modi chairs key meeting, announces ex-gratia 

Prime Minister Modi, who described the incident as "saddening", reviewed the situation at a meeting with External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar, NSA Ajit Doval, Foreign Secretary Vinay Kwatra and Principal Secretary to PM PK Mishra among others.

Following the meeting, the prime minister announced ex-gratia relief of Rs 2 lakh to the families of the deceased Indian nationals from the PM Relief Fund and directed that the government should extend all possible assistance.

Eyewitness recall horrific Kuwaift fire incident 

Witnesses quoted by local media highlighted the closure of ground passages within the building as a contributing factor to the severity of the suffocation experienced by many victims. This obstruction hindered residents’ movement and further compounded the challenge of evacuating the building swiftly, they said. They said the sight of flames engulfing the building instilled fear among onlookers.

One eyewitness recalled an incident where a resident worker leapt from the fifth floor, meeting a tragic end as he struck the balcony's edge. "The fire mishap in Kuwait City is saddening. My thoughts are with all those who have lost their near and dear ones. I pray that the injured recover at the earliest.

Indian Embassy releases emergency contact number for Kuwait fire tragedy

The Indian Embassy in Kuwait is closely monitoring the situation and working with the authorities there to assist the affected," Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on X. "Deeply shocked by the news of the fire incident in Kuwait City. There are reportedly over 40 deaths and over 50 have been hospitalized. Our Ambassador has gone to the camp. We are awaiting further information," External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar earlier said in a post on X.

"Deepest condolences to the families of those who tragically lost their lives. Wish early and full recovery to those who have been injured. Our Embassy will render the fullest assistance to all concerned in this regard," he added.

Indian Ambassador Adarsh Swaika visited the fire incident site and later different hospitals (the Al-Adan Hospital, Farwaniya Hospital, Mubarak Al-Kabeer Hospital and Jahra Hospital) where over 50 injured Indian workers were admitted.

Kuwait Emir orders probe into fire tragedy

The Emir of Kuwait, Sheikh Meshal Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber al-Sabah on Wednesday ordered authorities to probe the massive fire and vowed to hold accountable those responsible for the tragedy. Crown Prince Sheikh Sabah Khaled Al-Hamad Al-Sabah and Prime Minister Sheikh Ahmed Abdullah Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah condoled the deaths and prayed for the speedy recovery of the injured.

Sheikh Fahad Al-Yousuf Al-Sabah, serving as the First Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Interior, and Minister of Defence, has ordered police to arrest the owner of the Mangaf building where the fatal blaze occurred Wednesday, the building's janitor, as well as the owner of the company responsible for the workers pending the end of the criminal evidence personnel's examination of the scene, the Kuwait Times reported.

"What happened today is a result of the greed of the company and building owners," the minister said in a statement as he visited the fire scene. He said that he gave orders to Kuwait Municipality and the Public Authority for Manpower to launch immediate action to address similar violations where large numbers of workers are crammed into one residential building and make sure that all safety requirements are in place to prevent similar incidents in the future.

Kuwaiti officials suspended 

Engineer Saud Al-Dabbous, the Director General of Kuwait Municipality, suspended several key officials, including the Deputy Director General for Hawalli and Al-Ahmadi Governorate Affairs, the Acting Director of the Al-Ahmadi Municipality Branch, the Director of the Audit, Follow-up, and Engineering Department, and the Head of the Violations Removal Department in Al-Ahmadi, Arab Times daily reported. "These suspensions were enacted in the interest of public safety, pending the completion of an investigation into the circumstances surrounding the tragic incident," the paper said.

The Public Prosecution launched investigations into the building fire, it announced in a statement.

Ahmadi and Mubarak Al-Kabeer prosecution personnel inspected the scene of the fire and spoke with the injured victims in hospitals, while criminal evidence and forensics personnel were also present on site, the Public Prosecution said, adding that further investigations are ongoing to identify the cause of the fire and the suspects.

(With inputs from agency)

Also Read: Kuwait fire: Indian Embassy releases emergency contact number as Indians killed in building fire 

 

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