Kuwait fire tragedy leaves Kerala and Tamil Nadu grieving

Kuwait fire tragedy claimed the lives of 45 Indians, including 23 from Kerala and seven from Tamil Nadu.
MoS for External Affairs Kirti Vardhan Singh visits the Jaber hospital to meet Indians injured in a fire incident, in Kuwait, Thursday, June 13, 2024.
MoS for External Affairs Kirti Vardhan Singh visits the Jaber hospital to meet Indians injured in a fire incident, in Kuwait, Thursday, June 13, 2024.

Thiruvananthapuram/Chennai | The Kuwait fire tragedy that claimed the lives of at least 45 Indians, including 23 from Kerala and seven from Tamil Nadu, has left the two states reeling with grief as stories emerge of the affected families struggling to come to terms with their devastating loss.

Based on details shared by the Kuwaiti authorities, the Kerala government officially released the list of the deceased persons on Thursday evening.

According to this list, there were also three victims from Andhra Pradesh and one from Karnataka.

Earlier, an official from the Department of Non-Resident Keralites' Affairs (NORKA) unofficially said that, according to information provided by its help desk in Kuwait, 24 Malayalees had died in the fire. Of these, 22 have been identified, he said, and added that 12 others from the state were seriously injured.

Previously, quoting information provided by Tamil associations based abroad, Tamil Nadu Minister for Minorities Welfare and Non-Resident Tamils Welfare Gingee K S Masthan had told reporters that five persons from the state were killed.

Initially, the lack of confirmation from the government and the company where the victims worked had left families in a dilemma. However, they soon came to know about the deaths through officials, friends and family, as well as news reports.

Heart-breaking stories of sorrow and shock began emerging from various parts of Kerala as people learned about the death of their loved ones.

Among them were that of a father from Kerala identifying the remains of his son in Kuwait by the tattoo on his hand and a man dying before he could fulfill his desire to gift his daughter a phone in appreciation of her excellent plus two exam results.

Pradeep, who hails from Kottayam and worked for the same company as his son Sreehari in Kuwait, identified the remains of his son by a tattoo on his hand.

"I was called to a mortuary to identify my son's remains. When I went there, I saw that the face was completely swollen and the nose was covered with soot. I was unable to identify him. I just could not.

"Then I told them that he has a tattoo on his hand. Based on that, he was identified," a sobbing Pradeep told a Malayalam news channel in Kuwait on Thursday.

Lukose, a resident of Kollam in Kerala, had bought a mobile phone for his elder daughter, who had scored excellent marks in the plus two (class 12) board exams. He was planning to bring it next month when he intended to come home to arrange her admission in a nursing course in Bengaluru, a relative said.

"Initially, his death was not confirmed. Then on Wednesday evening, the friends and church members went to the police to enquire and that is when they confirmed it," the relative said.

In Kottayam district's Pampady area, grief struck a family living in a rented accommodation as 29-year-old Stephin Abraham Sabu lost his life in the tragedy.

Akash S Nair (32), a resident of Pandalam in Pathanamthitta district, died while attempting to escape from the fire when he succumbed to the smoke, close family sources said.

Amidst the tales of sorrow of grieving families an account of survival also emerged.

It was about how a daring split-second decision by Nalinakshan, who was among those in the burning building, saved his life.

The resident of Thrikkaripur in northern Kerala, found himself trapped in a third floor apartment in the building when disaster struck.

In a daring bid to escape the flames, he made a split-second decision and jumped onto a nearby water tank.

Though the leap to safety left him with broken ribs and injuries, Nalinakshan managed to survive the tragedy.

As those left behind to pick up the pieces of their suddenly devastated lives wondered how to move forward, the Kerala government held an emergency cabinet meeting on Thursday to provide some succour to the affected families from the state.

The cabinet meeting chaired by Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan decided to provide Rs 5 lakh as financial assistance to the families in the state whose kin died in the fire, and Rs 1 lakh to the injured.

It also decided to immediately send state Health Minister Veena George to Kuwait to coordinate efforts to provide treatment for the injured persons from the state and to ensure the earliest repatriation of the mortal remains of the deceased to Kerala.

Later in the evening, the Chief Minister's Office issued a statement saying that Vijayan has directed officials to ensure that when the bodies of the deceased reach Kerala, they are taken to their homes in special ambulances from the airport.

Talking to reporters, Minister George said, “We are informed that the bodies will be transported to Kochi. The CM has given all the instructions. Twenty five ambulances have been arranged here."

Earlier in the day, she met the families of victims in Pathanamthitta district.

At least 49 foreign workers were killed and 50 others injured in the fire on Wednesday at the seven-storey building where 196 migrant workers were staying in the southern Kuwait city of Mangaf.

Most of the deaths were due to smoke inhalation, Kuwaiti media reported, adding that the fire started in a kitchen.

Construction firm NBTC group rented the building for the stay of more than 195 workers, most of them Indians from Kerala, Tamil Nadu and the northern states, Kuwaiti media said.

Lulu Group announces Rs five lakh each for those killed

Dubai | Prominent NRI businessman and Chairman of UAE-based Lulu Group on Thursday announced Rs 5 lakh each for the families of the deceased in the tragic Kuwait fire tragedy, which left 49 persons, including 45 Indians, dead.

At least 49 foreign workers were killed and 50 others injured in the fire on Wednesday at the seven-storey building where 196 migrant workers were staying in the southern city of Mangaf.

A sum of Rs. 5 lakh for each of the families of the deceased will be paid as part of this relief fund, a statement released by the group in Abu Dhabi said.

The central government as well as the Kerala government have also announced similar relief funds.

Minister of State for External Affairs Kirti Vardhan Singh reached Kuwait on Thursday and met some of the Indians injured in the fire. The Indian Embassy in Kuwait said all those injured were safe.

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