• Saturday, July 20, 2024

HEADLINE STORY

Several Indians among foreign workers killed in Kuwait fire

Narendra Modi described news of the fire as saddening

The Ambassador of India to Kuwait, Adarsh Swaika, visits Mubarak Al-Kabeer Hospital, where 11 workers injured in the fire have been admitted, in Kuwait. (ANI Photo)

By: Pramod Thomas

AT LEAST 49 people, many of them Indians, were killed in Kuwait on Wednesday (12) after a fire broke out in a building housing foreign workers, with Kuwait’s deputy prime minister accusing property owners of committing violations that contribute towards such incidents.

The nationalities of those who died were not immediately clear. India’s ambassador visited hospitals where workers were being treated for injuries sustained in the fire.

At one hospital, more than 30 Indian citizens were admitted, the embassy wrote on social media, adding that at least 47 workers had received treatment in hospitals.

Indian prime minister Narendra Modi described news of the fire as saddening in a post on social media platform X.

“My thoughts are with all those who have lost their near and dear ones. I pray that the injured recover at the earliest,” he said.

“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 (one million) of the total population of Kuwait and 30 per cent of its workforce (around 900,000).

“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,” Indian 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.

Visiting the site, Kuwait deputy prime minister Sheikh Fahad Yusuf Saud Al-Sabah said “the greed of real estate owners is what leads to these matters”. It was not immediately clear if any violations had taken place at the building or what they were.

Low paid, blue collar workers in the Gulf often live in overcrowded accommodation. Local authorities did not disclose what kind of employment the workers were engaged in, though like in other Gulf states, Kuwait relies heavily upon foreign labour in industries like construction, including from South and Southeast Asia.

An Egyptian who survived the fire and worked as a driver in Kuwait, told local media the fire had started on a lower floor and that those on higher levels were unable to escape. He said the building had filled with thick smoke.

Emir Sheikh Meshal al-Ahmad al-Sabah ordered an immediate investigation into the cause of the fire and said that any officials found responsible would be held accountable.

The home ministry, which said the death toll had risen to 49, was investigating, searching the site for victims and working to identify those who had died, state media reported.

The fire in Mangaf, a city along the coast south of the capital Kuwait City, was reported to local authorities at 6 a.m. (0300 GMT), Major General Eid Rashed Hamad told state television. It was later contained.

Another senior police commander told state television that many people had died from smoke inhalation, and dozens were rescued. He said the building housed a large number of workers.

The senior police commander said authorities had warned against housing too many workers in a single accommodation, but didn’t say if regulations had been flouted.

(Agencies)

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