Kuwaiti authorities launch crackdown on illegal property extensions after Mangaf fire tragedy

An official said that many of the victims suffocated while trying to run down the stairs because they were filled with smoke.


Published Jun 15, 2024 | 5:33 PM Updated Jun 15, 2024 | 5:33 PM

Kuwait fire tragedy Mangaf

Authorities in Kuwait have launched a crackdown on illegal property extensions in the wake of a devastating fire at a seven-storey building that claimed the lives of 50 people, including 46 Indians, according to a media report on Saturday, 15 June.

Most deaths were due to smoke inhalation while residents in the building were sleeping when the fire broke out early on 12 June in Kuwait’s southern city of Mangaf in Ahmadi Governorate. The building was home to 196 migrant workers, mostly Indians.

The incident triggered calls for action against real estate landlords and company owners who violate the law to house large numbers of foreign labourers in extremely unsafe conditions to cut costs. The Kuwait Municipality has launched a rigorous crackdown on illegal property extensions, the Arab Times newspaper reported.

This tragic incident has shed light on the long-standing issue of unauthorised modifications to buildings, prompting authorities to take decisive action to prevent such disasters in the future. For years, the illegal conversion of property spaces has been a pervasive issue in Kuwait.

Basement parking areas have been transformed into warehouses, while ground-floor open spaces have been converted into housing units and shops, all in the pursuit of additional income. These modifications, often carried out without proper approval, compromise the safety and integrity of buildings, the paper said.

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

An India Embassy team on 14 June visited all 5 hospitals where 25 injured Indians are receiving medical treatment. They enquired about their medical condition. “Most patients are already in touch with their families.” the Embassy of India posted on X.

How the fire started

The investigation team of the fire department said on 13 June that the fire was caused by an electric short circuit in the room of the building guard and spread to other places. The guard’s room is located on the ground floor. Citing security sources, the paper said that there were 179 workers inside the building when the fire broke out, while 17 were outside. Of the 196 residents, 175 are Indians, 11 are Filipinos and the rest are from Thailand, Pakistan and Egypt.

According to an official, many of the victims suffocated while trying to run down the stairs because they were filled with smoke. He added that the victims could not go to the rooftop because the door was locked.

NBTC Group, where the victims of the fire tragedy were employed, issued a statement, extending its deepest condolences and sympathy to the families of the victims and injured. In response to the devastating accident, NBTC Group is providing immediate financial support to all affected families, underscoring its commitment to social and humanitarian responsibility.

“We affirm our commitment to all the decisions and directives issued to ensure accountability for what led to this tragic incident,” the paper quoted the statement as saying.

“We continue to stay in close contact with the families of the deceased and injured,” it said.

The company is also reportedly working in coordination with the Ministry of Health and medical teams to ensure the best possible treatment for the injured until they fully recover.

“We also announce that immediate support will be provided to all the families of the victims and the affected, stemming from our social and humanitarian responsibility, and our belief in the necessity of assisting those affected in such difficult times,” the statement said.

KG Abraham, a Kerala businessman based in Kuwait, is a partner and Managing Director of the firm.

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