An Indian Air Force flight has returned the bodies of 45 workers killed in a fire in Kuwait. The fire happened on Wednesday in Mangaf city, where 176 Indian workers lived in a residential building.

Kuwaiti authorities reported that 50 people died in the fire, including 45 Indians and three Filipinos, with two bodies yet to be identified. Many workers, mostly Indians, were also injured.

Foreign workers make up two-thirds of Kuwait’s population, and the country relies heavily on migrant labor, especially for construction and domestic work. Human rights groups often raise concerns about their living conditions.

Nearly half of the workers who died in the blaze were from Kerala
Nearly half of the workers who died in the blaze were from Kerala

Indian Minister Kirti Vardhan Singh went to Kuwait after the fire and said DNA tests were done to identify the victims. Among the deceased, 23 were from Kerala, seven from Tamil Nadu, three each from Andhra Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh, two from Odisha, and one each from Bihar, Punjab, Karnataka, Maharashtra, West Bengal, Jharkhand, and Haryana.

The Indian government arranged a special Air Force flight to bring back the bodies. The flight landed in Kochi, Kerala, on Friday morning, where the bodies of workers from southern India were handed over to local authorities, then continued to Delhi. Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and other officials were at the airport to receive the bodies and pay their respects.

“This is a huge tragedy for our country. Kerala’s migrant workers are vital to our state. The fire in Kuwait is a major tragedy for our community,” Mr. Vijayan said. Both state and federal governments have announced compensation for the families of the victims.

In Kuwait, authorities are inspecting health and safety conditions in buildings that house foreign workers. According to the Arab Times, an investigation found the fire started due to an electrical short circuit in the security guard’s room on the ground floor of the six-story building. A senior fire department official said inflammable materials were used as partitions in the building.

Kuwait’s Public Prosecution has detained a citizen and some expatriates on charges of manslaughter and negligence for not following fire safety measures. After the fire, Deputy Prime Minister Sheikh Fahad Yusuf al-Sabah accused property owners of greed and said that violations of building standards led to the tragedy.

Published: 14th June 2024

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