Kuwait fire: IAF plane on standby to repatriate remains of deceased, says MoS Kirti Vardhan Singh

The MoS has left for Mangaf where over 40 Indians died in the fire

PTI06_12_2024_000213B The burnt building where a fire broke out killing at least 49 people in Mangaf area of Kuwait | AP

A day after a devastating fire in an apartment building in southern Kuwait's Mangaf area killed 49 people, over 40 of them Indians, Union Minister of State for External Affairs, Kirti Vardhan Singh left for the Middle Eastern state on Thursday.

The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) confirmed on Wednesday that over 40 people of the 49 were Indians, and the rest were Pakistani, Filipino, Egyptian and Nepali nationals. "In an unfortunate and tragic fire incident earlier today in a Labour housing facility in the Mangaf area of Kuwait, around 40 Indians are understood to have died and over 50 injured," the Ministry of External Affairs said in a statement late on Wednesday night.

Singh said he hoped to get more details on arrival in Kuwait. "We had a meeting last evening with the Prime Minister, that is the last update we have about this very sad tragedy. The rest of the situation will be clear the moment we reach there," Singh told ANI at Delhi airport.

There were challenges in repatriation of the remains of the deceased, considering that many bodies have been charred beyond recognition, Singh said. "The situation is that the victims are mostly burn victims and some of the bodies have been charred beyond recognition. So a DNA test is underway to identify the victims."

The MoS added that an Air Force plane is on standby. "As soon as the bodies are identified, the kin will be informed and our Air Force plane will bring the bodies back," the MoS said. "The latest figures say the casualty is around 48-49 out of this 42 or 43 are believed to be Indians," he added.

Embassy helpline

The Indian Embassy in Kuwait continues to remain in touch with local authorities to provide relief to those affected by the incident. The Embassy has established a helpline +965-65505246 (WhatsApp and regular call) for family members to get in touch. Regular updates are being provided through the helpline.

Earlier, soon after the news of the fire incident in Kuwait broke out, Prime Minister Modi chaired a review meeting and announced an ex-gratia relief of Rs 2 lakh from the Prime Minister Relief Fund to the families of deceased Indian nationals.

External Affairs Minister spoke to his Kuwaiti counterpart Abdullah Ali Al-Yahya on the phone and urged him for the early repatriation of the mortal remains of those killed. "Spoke to Kuwaiti FM Abdullah Ali Al-Yahya on the fire tragedy in Kuwait.  Apprised of the efforts made by Kuwaiti authorities in that regard. Was assured that the incident would be fully investigated and that responsibility will be fixed," Jaishankar said on 'X'.

"Urged the early repatriation of the mortal remains of those who lost their lives. He emphasized that those injured were getting the requisite medical attention," he said.

The MEA said the Indian embassy in the Gulf nation is ascertaining the full details from the Kuwaiti authorities. "Those injured are presently admitted in five government hospitals (Adan, Jaber, Farwaniya, Mubarak Al Kabeer and Jahra) in Kuwait and receiving proper medical care and attention," it said, adding that most of the admitted patients are stable," it said.

Strict action

The labour camp where the incident occurred was run by a construction firm NBTC group, which rented the building for the stay of more than 195 workers. The company too is partly owned by an Indian and most of the workers were from Kerala, Tamil Nadu and northern states.

Kuwait's Interior Ministry said criminal evidence department personnel are currently working on identifying the victims and revealing the cause of the fire. It said strict measures will be taken against building owners who violate laid down norms.

The Indian embassy said it is in touch with Kuwaiti law enforcement authorities, fire service and health department for necessary action.

Interior Minister of Kuwait Sheikh Fahad Al-Yousuf Al-Sabah ordered an investigation into the fire incident and issued directions to apprehend the owner and janitor of the Al-Mangaf building. "What happened today is a result of the greed of the company and building owners," Al-Sabah was quoted as saying by Kuwait Times.

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