Families grieve as bodies of 45 Kuwait fire victims return


Senseless loss: Indian politician Veena George consoling the mother of a Kuwait fire victim at a house in Pathanamthitta district, Kerala. — Reuters

Grieving families kept a solemn vigil at the terminal of an Indian airport as the bodies of dozens of migrant workers killed in a Kuwait building fire returned home.

Wednesday’s dawn blaze quickly engulfed a housing block home to some of the many foreign labourers servicing the oil-rich gulf state’s economy.

Fifty people died in the resulting inferno, 45 of them Indians, with dozens more hospitalised and anguished relatives back home frantically chasing news of whether their loved ones had perished.

“We held on to hope till the last minute that maybe he got out, maybe he’s in the hospital,” Anu Aby, the neighbour of 31-year-old victim Cibin Abraham, said.

Aby said Abraham had been due to return to his home in Kerala state in August for his child’s first birthday.

Abraham had been on the phone to his wife just an hour before the fire began, he added.

Others sat in a waiting area at Kochi airport in India’s south, wiping away tears as the Indian Air Force plane carrying the remains of their relatives touched down yesterday.

Most of oil-rich Kuwait’s population of more than four million is made up of foreigners.

Many of them are from South and South-East Asia working in construction and service industries, and living in overcrowded housing blocks like the one that went up in flames on Wednesday.

Nearly 200 people were living in the building and many of the dead and injured suffocated from smoke inhalation after being trapped by the flames, according to a fire department source.

The bodies of many of the dead were charred beyond recognition and needed to be formally identified through DNA testing before they were repatriated.

One Kuwaiti and two foreign residents have been detained on suspicion of manslaughter through negligence of security procedures and fire regulations, authorities in the Gulf state said on Thursday. — AFP

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