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Several Indians among 49 killed in Kuwait apartment blaze; PM, Jaishankar condole deaths

The Interior 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

PTI Dubai, Kuwait City Published 12.06.24, 08:06 PM
Smoke billows after a fire broke out in a building, in Mangaf, Kuwait, Wednesday, June 12, 2024

Smoke billows after a fire broke out in a building, in Mangaf, Kuwait, Wednesday, June 12, 2024 PTI

A massive fire engulfed a multi-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 six-storey 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.

In a statement, the Interior Ministry said that the death toll from the tragic fire has reached 49, the Kuwait Times newspaper reported.

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.

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 English language daily Arab Times.

The building is rented by the NBTC group.

Sources said that a few nationals of other countries were also among victims. Five firefighters sustained injuries during the rescue operation, they said.

"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. Embassy remains committed to render 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).

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 leaped 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. 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.

Minister of State for External Affairs Kirti Vardhan Singh is rushing to Kuwait to oversee assistance to Indians injured in the fire and to ensure early repatriation of mortal remains of those killed.

"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 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 have been admitted.

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 in order to prevent similar incidents in the future.

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.

Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by The Telegraph Online staff and has been published from a syndicated feed.


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