Fire rages in a building in Mangaf city. Interior Minister Sheikh Fahd Al Yousef described as a “real disaster”. Image Credit: X

Dubai: Forty-nine people were killed and dozens injured in a devastating building fire housing workers in Kuwait on Wednesday, according to local authorities, local media reported.

The fire started in a kitchen in the six-storey building in Mangaf city, officials said, adding the building reportedly had around 195 residents, who are workers of the same company. Witnesses said some people jumped from the fifth floor of the building to escape the fire and died.

The incident was reported to authorities at 6am local time (0300 GMT), Major General Eid Rashed Hamad said.

The nationalities of those who died were not immediately disclosed by local authorities. 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.

One of the worst fires
The blaze is one of the worst seen in Kuwait, which borders Iraq and Saudi Arabia and sits on about seven per cent of the world’s oil reserves.
In 2009, 57 people died when a Kuwaiti woman, apparently seeking revenge, set fire to a tent at a wedding party when her husband married a second wife.
Nusra Al Enezi threw petrol on the tent and set it alight as people celebrated inside. She was hanged in 2017 for the crime, whose victims included many women and children.

Several Indians, including from the southern state of Kerala, were reported to have died in the fire, according to a letter written by Kerala chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan to India’s foreign minister that was shared with the press.

A government agency for Keralites living outside the state said it had been told by the Indian community in Kuwait that 41 Indians, including 11 from Kerala, had died in the fire.

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.

UAE expresses solidarity with Kuwait, conveys condolences
The United Arab Emirates conveyed its sincere condolences and expressed its solidarity with the State of Kuwait over victims of fire in a building in the Mangaf area, which resulted in dozens of deaths and injuries.
In a statement, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) expressed its sincere condolences and sympathy with the government and people of Kuwait, and to the families of the victims, as well as its wishes for a speedy recovery for all the injured. - WAM

“The building in which the fire occurred was used to house workers, and there was a large number of workers there. Dozens were rescued, but unfortunately there were many deaths as a result of inhaling smoke from the fire,” a senior police commander told state TV.

Witnesses highlighted the closure of ground passages within the building as a contributing factor to the severity of the suffocation experienced by many victims. Obstructions hindered residents’ movement and further compounded the challenge of evacuating the building swiftly.

Country’s Deputy Prime Minister Sheikh Fahad Yusuf Saud Al Sabah visited the site.

The deputy PM accused real estate owners of violations and greed, saying those factors contributed towards the incident. Sheikh Fahad described as a “real disaster”.

According to Onmanorama, 10 Indian nationals, five Keralites, were among those killed in the fire. The building reportedly housed around 195 labourers, including workers from Kerala and Tamil Nadu. The building belongs to NBTC group owned by Malayali businessman KG Abraham, reported Onmanorama.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi in a post on X offered condolences to the families of those killed in the fire.

“The fire 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,” he said.

Image Credit: X

“Deeply shocked by the news of the fire incident in Kuwait city. There are reportedly over 40 deaths and over 50 have been hospitalized. Our Ambassador has gone to the camp. We are awaiting further information,” India’s Foreign Minister S Jaishankar said.

The Indian Embassy in Kuwait has issued a helpline number and said the fire accident involved some Indian workers and the Embassy will render all possible assistance.

The Indian Ambassador In Kuwait said that over 30 Indian workers injured in today's fire incident have been admitted.

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Major General Eid Al Oweihan, Director General of Criminal Evidence, confirmed that the initial death toll was 35. Later, six of the victims succumbed to injuries in a hospital, he said.

Hours later, the interiro ministry updated the toll to 49 dead.

According to a source in the General Fire Department, the victims suffocated from rising smoke after the fire broke out on the ground floor.

The Ministry of Health has been put on high alert, having dealt with 43 injured cases so far. These include several with serious injuries who have been moved to various hospitals.

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Special medical teams were formed to monitor the injured and offer psychological and moral support to them and their families.

Sheikh Fahad Yusuf attributed the tragedy to 'negligence and greed of building owners and company operators'. He announced that the building owner, the company owner, and the building’s guard were detained, pending further investigation.

“We always alert and warn against” cramming too many workers into housing accommodation, another senior police commander told state TV, without providing details on the workers’ type of employment or place of origin.

The authorities said they had contained the fire and were investigating what caused it.

Indian ambassador to Kuwait Adarsh Swaika visited the site in Mangaf. He also visited the Al Adan hospital where over 30 injured Indian workers have been admitted. 

“He met a number of patients and assured them of full assistance from the Embassy,” the Indian Embassy in Kuwait said in a post on X.

"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 said in another post.