Seven Indian nationals are among 10 people who have died in a major fire that broke out in a garage below the cramped living quarters housing foreign workers here in the Maldivian capital, the Indian High Commission in Maldives said on Friday.
The fire broke out in a car repair garage in M. Nirufehi, located near the Maaveyo Mosque, around 12:30 am local time on Thursday.
The High Commission of India in the Maldives (HCIM) said that local authorities have informed them that seven of the deceased were Indian nationals.
"Fire incident in Male: Maldivian authorities have confirmed that 7 of the deceased were Indian nationals. The identity of one person is still being confirmed. High Commission is in contact with the families, " it said in a tweet.
On Thursday, the Maldivian media, quoting the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF), said nine Indians were among the 10 people who were killed in the blaze.
"HC @AmbMunu, along with Mission officials, met the evacuated Indian nationals. They were assured of all possible assistance. We thank Maldivian authorities, NGOs and community members who have been providing necessary support to the evacuees," HCIM said in another tweet.
According to the latest information, the deceased in the fire include people of both genders who are Indian and Bangladeshi nationals, the Sunonline reported.
The fire broke out in the garage that is located on the ground floor, while the first-floor houses cramped living quarters for migrant workers the only ventilation a single window, it said.
Authorities state that cooking gas cylinders were next to each bed, where the migrants slept. The quarters housed migrant workers from Bangladesh, India and Sri Lanka.
A total of 10 people died, while one, identified as a Bangladeshi national, is in critical condition, the report said.
As per the authorities, the migrant quarters housed at least 38 people, and there were cooking gas cylinders placed next to each bed. As many as 28 were rescued, of which nine remain under NDMA's care; six women and three men, it said.
External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar said in a tweet on Thursday: "Deeply grieved by the tragic loss of lives in a fire incident in Male today. Full details regarding Indians being ascertained by the High Commission who are contacting affected families."
Maldivian Foreign Minister Abdulla Shahid on Thursday spoke to his Indian counterpart Jaishankar and conveyed condolences to the government and people of Maldives over the death of a number of Indians in a major fire in the capital Male.
In the phone conversation, Shahid informed Jaishankar that a full investigation has been ordered into the incident that killed at least 10 people.
The Maldivian foreign minister said he also spoke to his Bangladesh counterpart. "Spoke to EAM of India @DrSJaishankar & FM of Bangladesh Dr A.K.Abdul Momen and conveyed condolences of the Government & people of Maldives, to the families of the deceased in the fire incident in Male last night. Informed that a full investigation is under-way," Shahid tweeted.
Separately, External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Arindam Bagchi described the incident as "tragic".
He said the Indian high commission in Male is extending all possible assistance to the affected Indians and their families.
"Our high commission there has clarified that local authorities have indicated that at least 10 bodies have been found. Local authorities are engaged in identifying the bodies," Bagchi said.
He was replying to a question on the incident during his weekly media briefing. "Our high commission is in close contact with the Maldivian authorities at various levels. Our high commission is extending all possible assistance to the affected Indians and their families. They have also opened a helpline," Bagchi said.
"It is a very unfortunate development. Till such time we are able to identify the bodies as Indian citizens, I would not like to comment or confirm how many have passed away," he said.
Maldives National Disaster Authority (MNDA)'s chief Hisan Hassan said on Thursday that 28 people were rescued from the building.
He said 19 of them had been taken away by their employers while nine people remain under MNDA's care - six women and three men.
Colonel Ibrahim Rasheed, Commandant of MNDF Fire and Rescue Service, said the fire was doused at 04:34 am local time.
Ibrahim said the dead bodies recovered from the scene were severely burnt, making it difficult to identify them or even determine their sex.
Foreign workers constitute about half of Male's 250,000-strong population, who are mostly from Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.