Over 40 Indians among 49 killed in Kuwait fire tragedy

Officials said that the majority of those deceased were Indian nationals from Kerala, Tamil Nadu, and north Indian states, with ages ranging between 20 and 50 years.
A picture shows a building that was engulfed by fire in Kuwait City on June 12, 2024.
A picture shows a building that was engulfed by fire in Kuwait City on June 12, 2024.Photo | AFP

Over 40 Indians were killed and more than 50 others injured on Wednesday after a major fire broke out in a building housing workers in Kuwait, local officials and Gulf media reported.

The total number of people killed in the Al-Mangaf building was 49 and 42 of them are learnt to be Indians; the remaining ones are Pakistani, Filipino, Egyptian and Nepali nationals, said officials.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who described the fire 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 the PM PK Mishra among others.

He also announced an ex-gratia relief of Rs 2 lakh to each of the families of the deceased Indian nationals from the Prime Minister's Relief Fund.

The fire began in a kitchen in a six-storey building in the Mangaf area of Kuwait's southern Ahmadi Governorate early Wednesday, officials said, adding that the building reportedly had nearly 200 people living in it who are workers of the same company.

According to Malayalam media reports, the building reportedly belongs to the NBTC Group, headed by Malayali businessman KG Abraham.

Officials said that the majority of those deceased were Indian nationals from Kerala, Tamil Nadu, and north Indian states, with ages ranging between 20 and 50 years. They added that most deaths were due to smoke inhalation while residents were sleeping, and a significant number of occupants were evacuated.

Three Keralites who died in the mishap have been reportedly identified as Umarudheen Shameer, 33, of Sooranad in Kollam, Akash Sasidharan, 23 of Pandalam and Renjith of Kundadukkam in Kasaragod. As per reports, seven injured are in a critical state out of which five are on ventilator support.

Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan has written to Union 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 several 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.

Sources said that five firefighters sustained injuries during the rescue operation. They added that victims suffocated from rising smoke after the fire broke out on the ground floor.

"Unfortunately, we received a report of a fire at... exactly 6:00 am (0300 GMT) in the Mangaf area," said Director General of the Forensic Department, Major General Eid Al-Owaihan during a visit to the site. Forensic teams have identified three of the bodies, he added.

Reacting to the incident, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar wrote 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 hospitalised. Our ambassador has gone to the camp. We are awaiting further information."

"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.

"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.

At the direction of Prime Minister Modi, 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 the mortal remains of those killed.

Meanwhile, India's Ambassador to Kuwait, Adarsh Swaika, visited the hospitalised Indian nationals, offering them all possible assistance in addition to medical treatment.

The building's owner has been detained in an investigation into potential negligence, Interior Minister Sheikh Fahd Al-Yousef said as he too visited the scene.

"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.

Kuwait, like other Persian Gulf countries, has a large community of migrant workers who far outnumber the local population. Indians constitute 21 percent (1 million) of the total population of Kuwait and 30 percent of its workforce (approximately 9 lakh).

Meanwhile, Norka Roots has opened a Kuwait City help desk. "As of now details of 21 Indian citizens who died in the mishap have come out. We are in constant touch with the Malayali associations in Kuwait and Loka Kerala Sabha members," said Norka Roots resident vice chairman P Sreeramakrishnan.

Help Desk

Anoop Mangatt +965 90039594

Bijoy +965 66893942

Richy K George +965 60615153

Anil Kumar +965 66015200

Thomas Selvan +965 51714124

Renjith +965 55575492

Naveen +965 99861103

Ansari +965 60311882

Jins Thomas +965 65589453

(With inputs from PTI, AFP and ENS)

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