Kuwait fire: What caused the explosion that claimed 49 lives?

A Kuwaiti police officer is seen in front of a burnt building following a deadly fire, in Mangaf, southern Kuwait, June 12, 2024. Photo: REUTERS/Stringer

Kuwait City: In the early hours of Wednesday, a deadly fire broke out in Mangaf, Ahmadi Governorate, a southern Kuwait area densely populated by foreign workers. The blaze swiftly engulfed a six-storeyed building, claiming the lives of 49 people, mostly Indians. As authorities grapple with the aftermath, questions surrounding the cause of the fire and potential building code violations loom large.

According to preliminary reports, the cause of the fire was traced back electrical short-circuit in the quarters of an Egyptian security guard, igniting a blaze that quickly spread throughout the building. The fire originated on the ground floor of Block-4.

The building's owner, also the company sponsor, is a Kuwaiti native. The building accommodated 195 individuals across various apartments, with 92 residents reported safe and 20 absent due to night duty. The building housed employees of the NBTC company. The incident occurred at four in the morning, exacerbating the impact as most workers were asleep at the time. While some died when they jumped off the building in a desperate bid to escape the fire, most fatalities occurred from asphyxiation due to smoke inhalation.

Kuwait Emir vows strict action
The Emir of Kuwait Sheikh Meshal Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah on Wednesday ordered authorities to probe the massive fire at an apartment building housing foreign workers, mostly Indians, and vowed to hold accountable those responsible for the tragedy that killed at least 49 people.

In a condolence message sent to the families of the victims of the fire incident in Mangaf, the Emir expressed his sincere sorrow and deep sympathy to the families of the victims and wished a fast recovery to the injured. The Emir directed officials to follow up to the causes of the fire outbreak and hold whomever responsible accountable, the official Kuwait News Agency (KUNA) reported.

Director General of the Forensic Department Maj Gen Eid Al-Owaihan said that the majority of the deceased were Indian nationals from Kerala, Tamil Nadu, and north Indian states.

Kuwait's Crown Prince Sheikh Sabah Khaled Al-Hamad Al-Sabah and Prime Minister Sheikh Ahmad Abdullah Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah also condoled the casualties in the fire incident.

Sheikh Fahad Al-Yousuf Al-Sabah, serving as the First Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Interior, and Minister of Defence, has ordered police to arrest the owner of the Mangaf building where the fatal blaze occurred Wednesday, the building's janitor, as well as the owner of the company responsible for the workers pending the end of the criminal evidence personnel's examination of the scene. "What happened today is a result of the greed of the company and building owners," the minister said in a statement as he visited the fire scene.

The Secretary General of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Jasem Al-Budaiwi expressed his deep condolences to Kuwait over the death and injuries in the fire incident in the Gulf country. He expressed his sentiments over the victims of the incident, praying to Allah Almighty to bestow the deceased with mercy and the injured with a speedy recovery, KUNA reported from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

Compensation for victims
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has described the fire incident as "saddening" and said the Indian Embassy in Kuwait is closely monitoring the situation. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has announced an ex-gratia relief of Rs 2 lakh to the families of the Indian nationals who died.  At the direction of Prime Minister Modi, Minister of State for External Affairs Kirti Vardhan Singh is rushing to Kuwait to oversee assistance to Indians injured in the fire and to ensure early repatriation of mortal remains of those killed.

External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar expressed deep shock over the incident and said the Indian embassy in the Gulf nation will render the "fullest assistance" to all concerned. Indian ambassador to Kuwait Adarsh Swaika visited several hospitals including where the injured have been admitted and has assured all help to the victims.

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