Fire in workers’ dorm kills 49 in Kuwait
text size

Fire in workers’ dorm kills 49 in Kuwait

Minister says property developers’ ‘greed’ contributed to tragedy

A Kuwaiti police officer stands in front of a building following a deadly fire in Mangaf in southern Kuwait on Wednesday. (Photo: Reuters)
A Kuwaiti police officer stands in front of a building following a deadly fire in Mangaf in southern Kuwait on Wednesday. (Photo: Reuters)

DUBAI - At least 49 people were killed in Kuwait on Wednesday after a fire broke out in a building housing foreign workers, with Kuwait’s deputy prime minister accusing property owners of committing violations that contribute to such incidents.

The nationalities of those who died in the fire in the southern city of Mangaf were not immediately clear. India’s ambassador visited hospitals where workers were being treated for injuries sustained in the fire.

At one hospital, more than 30 Indian citizens were admitted, the embassy said in a post on social media, adding that at least 47 workers had received treatment in hospitals.

It was not known if any Thai workers were in the building. The number of Thai workers in Kuwait varies and is estimated at between 5,000 and 10,000. By comparison, more than 900,000 Indians work in the country.

Visiting the site, Deputy Prime Minister Sheikh Fahad Yusuf Saud Al-Sabah said “the greed of real estate owners is what leads to these matters”. It was not immediately clear if any violations had taken place at the building or what they were.

Low-paid, blue-collar workers in the Gulf often live in overcrowded accommodation. Local authorities did not disclose what kind of employment the workers were engaged in, though like in other Gulf states, Kuwait relies heavily on foreign labour in industries like construction, including from South and Southeast Asia.

An Egyptian who survived the fire and worked as a driver in Kuwait, told local media the fire had started on a lower floor and that those on higher levels were unable to escape. He said the building had filled with thick smoke.

Emir Sheikh Meshal al-Ahmad al-Sabah ordered an immediate investigation into the cause of the fire and said that any officials found responsible would be held accountable.

The interior ministry, which said the death toll had risen to 49, was investigating, searching the site for victims and working to identify those who had died, state media reported.

The fire in Mangaf, a city along the coast south of the capital Kuwait City, was reported to local authorities at 6am local time, police Maj Gen Eid Rashed Hamad told state television. It was later contained.

Another senior police commander told state television that many people had died from smoke inhalation, and dozens were rescued. He said the building housed a large number of workers.

The senior police commander said authorities had warned against housing too many workers in a single accommodation, but didn’t say if regulations had been flouted.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi described news of the fire as saddening in a post on the social media platform X.

“My thoughts are with all those who have lost their near and dear ones. I pray that the injured recover at the earliest,” he said.

Do you like the content of this article?