Kuwait fire tragedy: Survivors recount chilling tales

Most of the people living in the six-storey building were sleeping when a gas cylinder belonging to an Egyptian living on the ground floor burst, engulfing the apartment in thick black smoke.
A picture shows a building which was engulfed by fire, in Kuwait City, on June 12, 2024
A picture shows a building which was engulfed by fire, in Kuwait City, on June 12, 2024Photo | AFP

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM : It must have been around 4.30am. I was sound asleep, only to be woken by the sudden commotion. There was a lot of smoke around and I was confused. People were running panic-stricken, many seemed to be choking. We chose not to go out and remained in our room. Only when the fire officials came calling, did we open the door,” recounts 55-year-old Chinnappan Viswanathan who had a miraculous escape from the fire in Mangaf city, in Kuwait’s southern Ahmadi governorate, that killed close to 49 people.

Sharing their harrowing experience with TNIE, many are yet to come out of the shock of losing their friends and colleagues who were asleep in the adjoining rooms. There were around 160 people in a six-storey building.

A picture shows a building which was engulfed by fire, in Kuwait City, on June 12, 2024
Kuwait fire tragedy: Smoke caught residents unaware

“Thick smoke engulfed the entire building. I think the fire started on the ground floor. At first, we couldn’t understand what was happening. Many people were running, Some were breathless. There was a lot of sound and confusion. A few went to the main hall and couldn’t return. We chose not to go out, till officials came searching for us,” said Chinnappan, who was on the third floor.

The Chennai native, who works as a technician, was taken to hospital and later moved into a friend’s room.

Santhosh Kumar Gait is still in a daze. The 39-year-old from Nepal had joined as a storekeeper a month back. He was sleeping on the first floor and escaped by breaking open a window pane. “I heard many shouts that the building is ablaze. Three or four of us together broke open the glass window and jumped to the ground floor. We were fortunate to escape with our lives,” he told TNIE.

A picture shows a building which was engulfed by fire, in Kuwait City, on June 12, 2024
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Presence of mind is what came to the aid of 29-year-old Rajendran Maridurai, from Thenkasi. He and his roommates, who were on the third floor, switched off the air conditioner and remained inside. “We were asleep on the third floor. I think it was those who had got up for morning prayer who called us. We could hear the commotion and saw a thick cloud of smoke all around us. Some tried to escape. Many fell unconscious. Some remained inside after locking their rooms. Two jumped from the fourth floor and lost their lives. We switched off the air conditioner, and broke the glass to let in outside air. Since the door was locked, we were not affected,” said Rajendran.

The survivors are unaware of what set off the fire, which as per reports was caused by leaking gas cylinders.

Most of the people living in the six-storey building were sleeping when a gas cylinder belonging to an Egyptian living on the ground floor burst, engulfing the apartment in thick black smoke.

As per sources, around 25 of the deceased are Keralites. Since many of the bodies were charred beyond recognition, their identity can only be confirmed by DNA tests. The Kuwaiti government has issued strict directives against releasing the names of the deceased until proceedings are completed.

A picture shows a building which was engulfed by fire, in Kuwait City, on June 12, 2024
Over 40 Indians among 49 killed in Kuwait fire tragedy

CM Pinarayi writes to Centre

Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan has written to External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar urging him to direct the Indian Embassy to get in touch with the Kuwait government to coordinate relief and rescue operations in the fire incident at Mangaf in the Gulf country. “It is reported that a number of Indians, including some from Kerala, have lost their lives or succumbed to serious injuries in this unfortunate incident,” the chief minister said in his letter. The fire had broken out at a camp known as NBTC camp in southern Mangaf district of Kuwait populated with foreign workers. According to reports, over 40 people have been killed in the fire that broke out on Wednesday morning.

Two from Kasaragod among dead

Two persons from Kasaragod were among the 49 people who lost their lives in the fire that ripped through a six-storey building in Kuwait’s Mangaf Block. K Renjith, 34, from Chengala, and P Kunhikelu, 58, from Trikaripur, both residing in the building’s labour camp, were killed in the blaze.

Renjith had been in Kuwait for a decade, while Kunhikelu had spent 25 years working there. The fire occurred at 6 am on Wednesday. Many people were injured in the accident. Several people who jumped off the building upon noticing the blaze were killed. Some of the bodies were in an unrecognizable condition, relatives of the victims said.

A picture shows a building which was engulfed by fire, in Kuwait City, on June 12, 2024
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