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Over 40 Indians among 49 dead in Kuwait building fire

Most of them workers from Kerala | Govt rushes MoS to extend help

Over 40 Indians among 49 dead in Kuwait building fire

Smoke billows from the Kuwait building where the tragedy struck. PTI



Tribune News Service

New Delhi, June 12

Over 40 Indians, most of them employed as labourers, were among 49 persons killed as a massive fire engulfed a multi-storey building housing foreign workers in southern Kuwait on Wednesday.

Officials said the toll could rise as the condition of several of the over 50 injured, who were admitted to various hospitals, was stated to be critical.

The Indian Government, in a swift response, despatched Union Minister of State for External Affairs Kirti Vardhan Singh to Kuwait to coordinate with the authorities there on assistance to the injured and early repatriation of the mortal remains of those killed.

Sources said almost all Indians killed were from Kerala. The fire started in a kitchen in the six-storey building in Mangaf area of Kuwait’s southern Ahmadi Governorate around 4.30 am, officials said. Most deaths were due to smoke inhalation while residents were sleeping, and a significant number of occupants were evacuated, they said. Construction firm NBTC Group had rented the building to house nearly 200 workers, most of them from Kerala, Tamil Nadu and northern states, the Kuwaiti media said.

Kuwait has a 10 lakh strong Indian diaspora, who form nearly 20 per cent of the country’s population. Nearly 1,000 Indian doctors, 500 dentists and 24,000 nurses are employed in Kuwait, as per officials.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced an ex gratia of Rs 2 lakh each to the families of the Indians killed in the fire. Modi, who described the fire incident as “saddening”, reviewed the situation arising out of it 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. “My thoughts are with all those who have lost their near and dear ones.... The Indian Embassy in Kuwait is closely monitoring the situation and working with the authorities there to assist the affected,” PM Modi said on X. He chaired the meeting upon his return from Andhra Pradesh and Odisha where he had gone to attend the swearing-in ceremonies of the new state governments.

Jaishankar, who spoke to Kuwaiti Foreign Minister Abdullah Ali Al-Yahya, said the Indian Embassy would render the “fullest assistance” to all concerned. Congress chief Mallikarjun Kharge expressed “deepest condolences” to the families of those killed and urged the External Affairs Ministry to provide all possible assistance to the victims and their families. 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,” 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. (With PTI inputs)

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