3 Pinoys hurt in Kuwait fire

Ian Laqui - Philstar.com
3 Pinoys hurt in Kuwait fire
Kuwaiti security forces gather outside a building which was ingulfed by fire, in Kuwait City, on June 12, 2024. More than 35 people were killed and dozens injured in a building fire in an area heavily populated with foreign workers in Kuwait, the interior ministry said.
AFP / Yasser Al-Zayyat

MANILA, Philippines —Three Filipinos were injured in a fire that hit a six-storey building in south of Kuwait City, which houses nearly 200 foreign workers, the Department of Migrant Workers (DMW) said Thursday.

In an interview with GMA's "Unang Balita," DMW Secretary Hans Cacdac said that 11 Overseas Filipino Workers were affected by the blaze.

"Meron tayong 11 OFWs na apektado dun sa building na yun... Fire broke out nung madaling araw, so tulog ang karamihan dun sa building na yun," Cacdac said.

(We have 11 OFWs who are affected in that building... Fire broke out early in the morning, so most of them were asleep when the fire broke out.)

"We are coordinaing with the company involved and they've been very cooperative. The Kuwaiti government is also cooperative and coordinating with us," he added. 

According to the DMW chief, three of the OFWs were hospitalized, with two of them in critical condition.

"'Yung isa is in a less serious situation, pero pagdasal pa din natin ang kanilang kaligtasan," he said.

(The other one is in a less serious situation, but let's still pray for their safety.)

In a report of Agence France-Presse, the health ministry of Kuwait said the blaze, which broke out at around dawn, also left dozens injured.

Flames engulfed the lower floors as black smoke poured out of the upper-storey windows, unverified images posted on social media showed.

The interior ministry of Kuwait revised the death toll up to 49, from 35 issued earlier, after forensic teams scoured the charred building.

"The number of deaths as a result of the fire in the workers' building... has risen to 49," the ministry said.

The official Kuwait News Agency quoted Health Minister Ahmed al-Awadhi as saying hospitals had received 56 people injured in the fire in the Mangaf area, which is heavily populated with migrant labourers.

The building, whose exterior was blackened with soot, housed 196 workers, according to information given to the interior minister by their employer.

Oil-rich Kuwait has large numbers of foreign workers, many of them from South and Southeast Asia, and mostly working in construction or service industries.

A source in the fire department said the victims suffocated from rising smoke after the fire started at the building's base.

A foreign ministry said the fire claimed "the lives of 49 people residing in the State of Kuwait", amending an earlier statement that said they were all Indian citizens.

India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi had previously called the disaster "saddening" in a post on social media platform X.

"My thoughts are with all those who have lost their near and dear ones," wrote Modi, as the Indian embassy in Kuwait set up an emergency helpline for updates.

'Overcrowding and neglect' 

India's Minister of State for External Affairs Kirti Vardhan Singh was also on his way to coordinate assistance and repatriate the dead, India's foreign ministry spokesman said.

India's Foreign Minister S. Jaishankar posted that he was "deeply shocked by the news" and offered "deepest condolences to the families of those who tragically lost their lives".

He spoke on the phone with his Kuwaiti counterpart Abdullah al-Yahya who "expressed the condolences of the leadership, government and people of the State of Kuwait", the foreign ministry statement said.

Yahya also "called for a speedy recovery for those injured as a result of this painful disaster" and said Kuwaiti authorities were "harnessing all their capabilities" to assist them, it added.

Interior Minister Sheikh Fahd Al-Yousef said the building's owner had been detained for potential negligence, adding any properties violating safety regulations would be closed immediately.

"We will work to address the issue of labour overcrowding and neglect," he said. "We will detain the owner of the property where the fire broke out until legal procedures are completed."

The blaze is one of the worst seen in Kuwait, which borders Iraq and Saudi Arabia and sits on about seven percent of the world's oil reserves.

In 2009, 57 people died when a Kuwaiti woman, apparently seeking revenge, set fire to a tent at a wedding party when her husband married a second wife.

Nusra al-Enezi threw petrol on the tent and set it alight as people celebrated inside. She was hanged in 2017 for the crime, whose victims included many women and children. — With reports from Agence France-Presse

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