Several Indians among 41 killed in Kuwait apartment blaze

PTI, Jun 12, 2024, 5:03 PM IST

Representative image (source: iStock)

Dubai: Several Indians were among 41 people killed on Wednesday in a major fire at a building in Kuwait housing workers, according to local officials and reports emanating from the Gulf nation.

The fire started in a kitchen in the six-storey building in Mangaf area in Kuwait’s southern Ahmadi Governorate in the early hours of Wednesday, officials said.

The building reportedly had nearly 160 people living in it, who are workers of the same company.

Director General of the Forensic Department Maj Gen Eid Al-Owaihan said the death toll has exceeded 35, with 15 injured individuals admitted to hospitals, four of whom later died, English language daily Arab Times reported.

He said that the majority of the deceased were Indian nationals, with ages ranging between 20 and 50 years, the paper added.

Sources said that five fire fighters sustained injuries during the rescue operation,

Most deaths were due to smoke inhalation while residents were sleeping, and a significant number of occupants were evacuated, it added.

“In connection with the tragic fire-accident involving Indian workers today, 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).

“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 hospitals where Indian workers injured in today’s fire incident have been admitted.

“Amb @AdarshSwaika1 visited the tragic fire-incident site in Mangaf to ascertain the situation. Embassy is in constant touch with relevant Kuwaiti law enforcement, fire-service and health authorities for necessary action and emergency medical health-care,” the Indian mission said.

At the Al-Adan hospital, the Indian diplomat met a number of patients and assured them of full assistance from the Embassy. Almost all are reported to be stable by hospital authorities, the mission said.

Ambassador Swaika also visited Farwaniya Hospital, where 6 workers, expected to be mostly Indians, injured in today’s fire-incident were admitted. Hospital authorities confirmed that 4 of them have been released, 1 has been shifted to Jahra hospital and 1 in ward is reportedly stable, the Indian mission said in another post on X.

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.

Eyewitnesses said that 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.

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