A dad awaiting child’s first birthday, a young man on his first job abroad: Kuwait fire burns all down

At least 24 Keralites were killed in the fire that raged through a residential building at Mangaf in Kuwait.

ByDileep V Kumar

Published Jun 14, 2024 | 12:00 PM Updated Jun 14, 2024 | 12:22 PM

Mortal remains of the deceased in Kuwait fire

It was a call that no one ever expected and hoped never to receive.

The call brought the news that shattered their lives forever. A devastating fire in a Kuwait building had claimed the lives of 24 Keralites. The blaze had charred the dreams and futures of many families.

Now, the dear ones back home would have to live with the fond memories of those had they lost, memories that would become their only solace in a forever-changed world.

Also read: 24 Keralites among 49 deceased in Kuwait fire; ex-gratia announced

A young dream cut short

The quaint village of Ithithanam, Changanassery, has been shrouded in sorrow since the news broke of the devastating fire in Mangaf, Kuwait, that claimed the lives of 24 Keralites.

Among the victims was 27-year-old P Sreehari, whose dreams of a better future were tragically cut short just five days after arriving in Kuwait for his first job abroad.

For Sreehari, 8 June was a day filled with hope and excitement.

He had boarded a flight to Kuwait, embarking on his maiden foreign trip and the beginning of what he hoped would be a successful career. The job was secured in the same company where his father, Pradeep, had been an employee for several years.

The departure was bittersweet. Sreehari bid an emotional goodbye to his mother Deepa, and his younger siblings, Arjun and Anand. With promises to call regularly and return with stories of success, he left for his dreamland.

Unknown to Sreehari, death was waiting to receive him.

Related: MoS Kirti Vardhan Singh reaches Kuwait

Abrupt end to a promising future

In Kuwait, Sreehari settled in a flat not far from where his father lived.

The Indian Embassy in Kuwait said an IAF aircraft had left for Kochi with the bodies on Friday. (India in Kuwait/X)

The Indian Embassy in Kuwait said an IAF aircraft had left for Kochi with the bodies on Friday. (India in Kuwait/X)

However, the promise of a bright future was abruptly extinguished in a tragic turn of events.

On the fifth day of his arrival, a massive fire broke out in the building where Sreehari was staying. The blaze, which swept through the structure with alarming speed, left little time for escape.

Sreehari, along with 23 other Keralites — coughing and gasping in the billowing thick, dark smoke through which orange flames shot up with deadly intent —  found themselves trapped.

Pradeep, who lived in close proximity to the ill-fated building, rushed to the scene as soon as he heard about the fire. His heart pounded with fear and hope, praying that his son had managed to escape.

Related: Kerala minister denied permission to visit Kuwait for fire relief efforts

End of a frantic search

But the thick smoke and warning from security personnel prevented him from getting closer to the building. Desperate and helpless, he had no choice but to wait as the authorities battled the blaze.

When Pradeep learned that the injured were being shifted to various hospitals, he ran from one hospital to another, clinging to the hope that his son might be among the survivors. His frantic search spanned several hospitals, each visit heightening his anxiety and despair.

It was during this desperate search that someone asked Pradeep if his son had any identifying marks. Pradeep mentioned the tattoos that Sreehari had on his arms.

In the cold, somber morgue, Pradeep realised that his search for his son had come to an abrupt end. Amidst rows of lifeless bodies, he spotted one with the familiar tattoos.

The news reached Ithithanam, casting a pall of grief over the entire community. Friends and neighbors gathered at Sreehari’s home to offer their condolences to the family.

The dreams that Sreehari had carried with him to Kuwait, the aspirations of a young man eager to carve out a better future, were now still, silent and slain.

Related: Kuwait’s Foreign Minister Abdullah Ali Al-Yahya assures full support to Indians affected in fire 

House that lost its soul

The story of Stephen Sabu Abraham, a native of Pambadi, Kottayam, stands out as a poignant testament to the dreams and aspirations that many carry with them, only to be thwarted by unforeseen calamities.

Minister of State for External Affairs Kirti Vardhan Singh speaks to an injured man at Adan hospital in Kuwait where 12 Indians are being treated. (India in Kuwait/X)

Minister of State for External Affairs Kirti Vardhan Singh speaks to an injured man at Adan hospital in Kuwait where 12 Indians are being treated. (India in Kuwait/X)

Stephen, a determined and hardworking individual, had always dreamed of providing a better life for his parents Sabu Abraham and Sherly.

His aspirations began to take shape six months ago during his vacation in Kerala, when he laid the foundation for a new house.

This house was not just a structure of bricks and mortar, but was built on the foundation of love and dedication. The goal was to move his parents from their rented accommodation to a place they could proudly call their own.

Those close to the family said that Stephen’s excitement about the new house was palpable.

“Even while he was miles away in Kuwait, he kept a close eye on its progress. Every day, he would check on the construction, sometimes via video calls, ensuring that everything was on track,” said Mathew, a relative.

Pall of gloom

In addition to the house, the family members said, Stephen had another reason to celebrate. He had recently booked a new car, which was expected to arrive within days.

“His plans were coming together; his vision of a comfortable life for his family was nearing fruition,” said Mathew.

Stephen, along with his two brothers, Febin and Kevin, who were also abroad, had booked their tickets to fly home for a special family function related to the new house.

However, fate had something else for the family in store.

The fire shattered the dreams. Stephen’s family, who had been eagerly anticipating his arrival and the upcoming celebrations, are now engulfed in grief.

Stephen will arrive at his new house, but not as planned. Instead of joy, his arrival brings a heartbreaking finality.

Related: Authorities identify bodies of 45 Indians, 3 Filipino nationals

Death eclipses Irin’s first birthday

Sibin, a devoted father, was eagerly anticipating a very special day.

IAF aircraft carrying deceased Indians mortal remains

IAF aircraft carrying deceased Indians mortal remains. (India in Kuwait/X)

His daughter, Irin, was about to celebrate her first birthday on 18 June.

For Sibin, this milestone was more than just a date on the calendar—it was a moment to shower his little girl with love, chocolates, toys, and the warmth of family celebrations.

“He was planning to come back home for Irin’s birthday,” a close friend of the family shared, recounting Sibin’s excitement and joy. He wanted to be there, to make it memorable for her and for all of us,” he said.

The family’s plans were cruelly interrupted by the fire in Kuwait.

Sibin had spoken with his wife and daughter just before the tragedy struck.

Now, little Irin’s first birthday will pass without her father, without the gifts and celebrations he had meticulously planned.

The fire was not the first tragedy to strike Sibin’s family. The sorrow compounds, making the pain all the more unbearable.

Just a few months ago, Sibin’s mother, Alice, passed away, leaving a void in their lives. In January, his mother-in-law also succumbed to illness, another blow to the family already reeling from loss.

“This is the third death in our family in such a short span of time,” a relative lamented. “First his mother, then his mother-in-law, and now Sibin. It’s just too much for us,” the relative said.

Related: Three from Andhra Pradesh, seven from Tamil Nadu killed in Kuwait fire tragedy

Emilyn to take wings without father’s protective arms

Saju Varghese, a native of Chennasery, had been working in Kuwait to provide a better future for his family.

He was eagerly anticipated to return home in just 12 days for a brief visit, a trip tied to the educational aspirations of his daughters.

His elder daughter, Angel, recently completed her degree and was planning to pursue higher studies, while his younger daughter, Emilyn Anna, had just finished her plus two and was preparing to join an engineering course.

Friends and family recall how Saju’s return was always a time of joy and celebration.

“Whenever he came back, the whole area would light up. He was the life of our gatherings, always bringing laughter and hope,” said Joseph, a close friend.

The planned 10-day leave was a chance for Saju to be with his family after months of hard work abroad.

He will now return forever, cold and cheerless. The family is now preparing for his funeral.

Adding to the family’s anguish is the plight of Saju’s wife’s sister’s husband, who was also in the same building that caught fire.

He survived but is currently undergoing treatment after sustaining severe injuries from jumping off the fourth floor to escape the flames.

“Saju was more than a friend. He was a brother to many of us. His absence leaves a void that can never be filled. We can only honor his memory by supporting his family and ensuring his daughters fulfill the dreams he had for them,” the man’s friend Joseph said.

Kuwait Fire Force on Thursday, 13 June, said the deadly fire was caused by an electrical short circuit.

(Edited by Majnu Babu).

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