Indian Minister of State for External Affairs Kirti Vardhan Singh visits one of the Kuwait hospitals where Indian workers injured in the Mangaf fire are being treated. Photo courtesy: X/@indembkwt

Indian Minister of State for External Affairs Kirti Vardhan Singh has reached Kuwait today to oversee the assistance for those injured in a massive fire at a worker housing block in Mangaf, and to ensure the early repatriation of the bodies of about 40 Indians killed in the blaze.

At least 49 migrant workers in Kuwait were killed and 50 were injured in the fire, which broke out yesterday at the seven-storey building housing 196 workers in the southern city of Mangaf.

The official X handle of the Indian mission in Kuwait said today that KV Singh first visited Jaber Hospital, where six Indians were admitted, and then Mubarak Al Kabeer hospital, where seven Indians were admitted. “MoS ascertained their well being & assured them of all support from GoI. He also appreciated hospital authorities, doctors and nurses for taking good care of the Indians,” said the mission on its X handle @indembkwt.

Referring to the repatriation of workers’ remains, the embassy said in another post: “On the directions of Hon’ble Prime Minister @narendramodi, MoS@KVSinghMPGonda arrives in Kuwait to oversee assistance to those injured in fire tragedy & coordinate with local authorities for early repatriation of mortal remains of those who have died in this unfortunate incident.”

Officials in New Delhi said today that the Kuwaiti authorities were conducting DNA tests on the bodies of those killed in the devastating fire. An Indian Air Force plane was on standby to bring back the mortal remains of Indians killed in the incident, they added.

Indian Minister of State for External Affairs Kirti Vardhan Singh in Kuwait
Indian Minister of State for External Affairs Kirti Vardhan Singh is accompanied by a Kuwaiti official and Indian officials in Kuwait during a hospital visit. Photo courtesy: X/@indembkwt

“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,” said the Ministry of External Affairs in a statement late last night.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who described the incident as “saddening”, reviewed the situation at a meeting with External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar, NSA Ajit Doval, Foreign Secretary Vinay Kwatra, and Principal Secretary to PM PK Mishra, among others.

Following the meeting, the prime minister announced ex gratia relief of INR 2 lakh (approx USD 2,400) for the families of the deceased Indian nationals from the PM Relief Fund. He directed that the Government of India should extend all possible assistance to the families. Officials said that most of the Indian victims were from Kerala.

Minister Kirti Vardhan Singh speaks to Jaber Hospital authorities
Minister Kirti Vardhan Singh speaks to Jaber Hospital authorities on the treatment and care for the injured Indian workers. Photo courtesy: X/@indembkwt

Indian External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar 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,” said the Indian EAM.

The fire erupted just after 4am yesterday, when the majority of the 196 all-male residents of the building were asleep. It resulted in huge thick clouds of black smoke, which led to the suffocation of most of the victims, according to officials from the Kuwaiti Interior Ministry and the fire department.

India’s mission in Kuwait is ascertaining the full details from the concerned Kuwaiti authorities over the incident.

Those injured have been admitted to five government hospitals (Adan, Jaber, Farwaniya, Mubarak Al Kabeer, and Jahra hospitals) in Kuwait and receiving medical care and attention. According to hospital authorities, most of the admitted patients are stable.

The Ambassador of India in Kuwait, Adarsh Swaika, immediately visited the location of the incident and also the hospitals to ascertain the welfare of the Indian nationals.

The embassy continues to co-ordinate with local authorities to assist the Indian nationals who are injured.

Kuwaiti Deputy Premier, Defence and Interior Minister Sheikh Fahad Al-Yousef Al-Sabah ordered the arrest of the Kuwaiti landlord of the building, and also the Egyptian guard of the building. He warned officials not to release them without his permission.

The minister told reporters that the fire was a catastrophe, adding that from today, teams from the municipality will begin inspecting all buildings and have the authority to remove any violation without any warning.

The Kuwaiti minister said that the authorities would also start studying the issue of overcrowding of expat workers in buildings and non-compliance with safety conditions.

The public prosecution has started an investigation into the fire to uncover how it began. There is no official word yet on the cause. Some local media reported that it could be a gas leak from the building’s ground floor.

Colonel Sayed Al-Mousawi, Head of Investigations at the Kuwait Fire Department, said that the team investigating the causes of the fire found that an inflammable material was used to create partitions between apartments and also between rooms, which caused the huge black clouds of smoke.

He said that many of the victims suffocated while trying to run down the stairs because the stairwell was filled with smoke, adding that the victims could not go to the rooftop because the door was locked.