Manama: Thirteen workers, mainly from Pakistan and Bangladesh, were killed when a fire swept through their three-storey accommodation in downtown Manama.
The fire broke out in the afternoon and witnesses said that firefighters who were praised for their prompt intervention to prevent the blaze from spreading in the windy weather were still dealing with the tragedy by 10pm.
The roof of the building in the crowded area of Mukharga collapsed and the firefighters needed time to find the charred bodies of the victims.
“The civil defence teams rushed to the scene when the case was reported at 15:44 and reached at 15:50,” a senior officer from the Civil Defence said. “Several tenants were rescued and a civil defence serviceman was injured when the roof collapsed. The fire was controlled before reaching nearby buildings, and the bodies were removed,” the officer said on the interior ministry’s website.
The public prosecution has launched an investigation into the reason behind the fire, he said.
The high figure of the casualties is attributed to the large number of people staying inside the building on Friday, a holiday, and to the windy and cold conditions outside.
Witnesses said that several residents had escaped the fire by jumping out of the windows.
The blaze was Bahrain’s second deadliest tragedy to strike a labour accommodation. In 2006, a fire in the Gudhaibiya neighbourhood in the capital Manama killed 16 workers, prompting a wave of condemnations and calls to ensure better safety-compliant accommodation for foreign workers.
Many unskilled workers from Asian countries often end up being crammed into buildings that were not designed to accommodate a large number of people.