Kuwait fire tragedy: Grief-stricken families gather at Kochi airport as bodies of loved ones return

As the first casket bearing the body of Arun Babu was solemnly brought out of the cargo terminal of the airport here on Friday, mourning families huddled together to receive the remains of their loved ones who perished in the devastating fire tragedy in Kuwait two days ago.
Kuwait fire tragedy: Grief-stricken families gather at Kochi airport as bodies of loved ones return

Kochi | As the first casket bearing the body of Arun Babu was solemnly brought out of the cargo terminal of the airport here on Friday, mourning families huddled together to receive the remains of their loved ones who perished in the devastating fire tragedy in Kuwait two days ago.

The scene at the cargo terminal of Cochin International Airport was heart-wrenching as those gathered there sought solace in each other's company during this tragic homecoming.

An Indian Air Force (IAF) flight carrying the mortal remains of the 45 Indians who died in the fire landed at the international airport around 10.30 am, but it wasn't until an hour later that the caskets were brought out after the necessary security clearances.

This included the customs, immigration, and airport health office processes related to the 45 bodies at the airport.

From as early as 6.30 am, the grieving families had been waiting patiently.

As the airport staff began bringing the caskets from the import cargo terminal at 11.30 am and placing them on a designated podium, the atmosphere turned even more sombre.

Stifled sobs gave way to loud cries of grief as family members saw the names of their loved ones on the caskets, filling the terminal with a chorus of heartbreak.

The bodies of 23 Keralites, seven Tamils, and one person from Karnataka were brought back from Kuwait on the IAF C-130J aircraft.

Union Minister of State for External Affairs Kirti Vardhan Singh had accompanied the bodies from Kuwait.

Several political leaders, including Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, Union Ministers of State Kirti Vardhan Singh and Suresh Gopi, State Ministers K Rajan, P Rajeev, Veena George, Kadannappally Ramachandran and Roshie Augustine, Leader of Opposition V D Satheesan, and various other MLAs and MPs were present to pay their last respects to the departed.

Their presence was a small solace to the grieving families in this time of immense sorrow.

The chief minister and other leaders waited for over an hour and paid their respects to the departed. The leaders placed wreaths on all 31 bodies.

Tamil Nadu Minister for Minorities Welfare and Non-Resident Tamils Welfare Gingee K S Masthan was also present as the bodies of the seven persons belonging to Tamil Nadu were brought to Kochi.

Kerala police gave a guard of honour to the deceased.

After the official ceremonies, the family members received the bodies.

The father of Cibin Abraham from Mallappally wrapped his arms around the casket and cried while other family members tried to console him. Cibin's in-laws also came to receive the body.

The impact of the tragedy was doubled for a family from Chengannur, as two of its members lost their lives in the tragic fire accident.

Mathew Thomas (53) from Chengannur and his nephew Shibu Varghese (30) from Payippadu were among those who lost their lives in the incident.

"Shibu, who leaves behind a wife and toddler, worked as an accountant at NBTC company, while Mathew worked in another department within the same company," a relative, who came to receive the bodies, told PTI.

The relative said that the bodies would be shifted to Pushpagiri Medical College in Thiruvalla, and that the funerals will be held later.

Ministers and officials found it difficult to console the families with words.

Many family members said they are yet to learn the full details of how the accident happened and the nature of the injuries that caused the death of their loved ones.

After the ceremony, the bodies were shifted to the designated ambulances, and a pilot vehicle of the Kerala police accompanied them until they reached their respective hometowns.

The Kerala police also accompanied the seven ambulances from Tamil Nadu till they crossed the state's border.

The body of the person from Karnataka will be airlifted to Hyderabad on the 9.50 PM flight, according to officials from Karnataka. "The deceased person is from Kalburgi (in Karnataka), which is near Hyderabad (in Telangana). From there, we have arranged an ambulance," the official said.

The ambulances slowly started departing around 12.30 PM, bearing the weight of sorrow.

Officials had said that 49 people were killed in the fire in the Al-Mangaf building on June 12 and the majority of them were Indians. The remaining were Pakistani, Filipino, Egyptian and Nepali nationals.

The building in southern Kuwait's Mangaf area housed around 195 migrant workers.

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