Grief-stricken relatives receive bodies of Kuwait victims

The Asian Age With Agency Inputs

India, All India

Most deaths were due to smoke inhalation while residents in the six-storey building were sleeping when the fire broke out early Wednesday

Relatives mourn near the deceased after the coffins' arrival on an Indian Air Force plane from Kuwait at the Cochin International Airport in Kochi on June 14, 2024.

Kochi: An Indian Air Force (IAF) flight carrying the mortal remains of 45 Indians who died in the Kuwait blaze two days ago, landed at the international airport here on Friday. The death toll of Indians rose to 46 with one more person succumbing to injuries.

The bodies of 31 victims, including 23 Keralites, seven Tamilians and one person from Karnataka, were received at the airport by Central and state ministers. The aircraft carrying the bodies of the remaining 14 victims later landed in New Delhi.

Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, who paid tribute to the victims at the airport, said “It is an unending loss for the families of the deceased. Measures need to be taken to prevent a recurrence of such incidents and it is hoped that the Kuwaiti government will take requisite action,” he added.

The grieving families kept a solemn vigil as the bodies returned home. “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 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 said.

Others sat in a waiting area at Cochin airport, wiping away tears as the Indian Air Force plane carrying the remains of their relatives touched down. The IAF C130J aircraft carrying the mortal remains of 45 Indians landed at the airport here at around 10.30 am.

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

The bodies of many of the dead were formally identified through DNA testing before they were repatriated.

Meanwhile the authorities in the Gulf nation detained one Kuwaiti and two foreign residents on suspicion of manslaughter through negligence of security procedures and fire regulations.

Meanwhile, a Kuwaiti citizen and several foreigners have been arrested in connection with charges of manslaughter and causing injuries due to negligence in security and safety measures following the fire incident.

Interior minister Sheikh Fahd Al-Yousef vowed on Wednesday to address “labour overcrowding and neglect” and threatened to close any buildings that flout safety rules.

authorities said that an electrical short circuit in the room of the guard on the ground floor of the building caused the blaze that killed 50 people.

Most deaths were due to smoke inhalation while residents in the six-storey building were sleeping when the fire broke out early Wednesday in Kuwait's southern Ahmadi Governorate. The building was home to 196 migrant workers, mostly Indians, and there were 179 workers inside the building when the fire broke out.

According to an official, many of the victims suffocated while trying to run down the stairs because they were filled with smoke. He added that the victims could not go to the rooftop because the door was locked.

The Accident Investigation Department's teams concluded their technical inspections, which included analyzing samples of fire debris and conducting interviews with witnesses present during the incident, English language daily Arab Times reported, citing a press statement.

Their investigation determined that the fire originated in the security guard's room located on the ground floor of the six-story building, the newspaper reported.