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Indian Air Force flies home 45 Indian victims of deadly building blaze in Kuwait

An Indian Air Force flight carrying the bodies of 45 overseas workers killed after fire swept through an accommodation block in Kuwait touched down Friday in the southwestern city of Kochi in Kerala State. Photo courtesy of Indian Embassy, Kuwait/X
An Indian Air Force flight carrying the bodies of 45 overseas workers killed after fire swept through an accommodation block in Kuwait touched down Friday in the southwestern city of Kochi in Kerala State. Photo courtesy of Indian Embassy, Kuwait/X

June 14 (UPI) -- An Indian Air Force flight carrying the bodies of 45 overseas workers killed after fire swept through a housing block in Kuwait touched down Friday in Kochi in the southern state of Kerala.

Indian Minister for External Affairs Kirti Vardhan Singh was on board after being dispatched to Kuwait to coordinate the repatriation in cooperation with Kuwait authorities and assist those injured in the blaze, the Indian Embassy in Kuwait City said in a post on X.

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Singh said the victims had been identified via DNA testing prior to being flown home.

In a news release posted online, the embassy said the remains of 34 of the deceased from Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka were handed over to state officials before the flight continued onto New Delhi with the remaining 11 victims from states in the center and north of the country.

"This is a huge tragedy for our country. Kerala's migrant workers are the lifeblood of our state. The fire in Kuwait is one of the biggest tragedies to affect our community," Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said at Kochi Airport where he and other state politicians had gathered to greet the flight.

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In Kuwait, Minister Singh visited five hospitals where 33 Indian nationals were being treated and who were expected to be "progressively" discharged depending on how their recoveries proceeded.

Another 98 Indian workers living at the facility in Mangaf, 23 miles south of downtown Kuwait City, were reported to be safe.

The blaze, which broke out as the workers slept in the early hours of Wednesday, killed 50 people, mostly from smoke inhalation, according to Kuwait authorities, including three Filipinos and two victims who have yet to be identified.

Human rights groups have previously issued warnings over the housing and other conditions of migrant labor in Kuwait where as many as two-thirds of the population comprises overseas workers, most of them working in construction or as domestics.

Prosecutors have opened an investigation into the fire which local media reported may have been the result of a gas leak.

The Kuwait Times reported Kuwait Fire Department chief investigator Col. Sayed Al-Mousawi as saying his team had identified flammable material used for partitions between apartments and rooms, thick black smoke from which had overcome victims as they fled down the stairs.

He said that they were unable to go upward to the roof because the exit was locked.

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Deputy Premier Sheikh Fahad Al-Yousef Al-Sabah said he had ordered city hall to begin inspecting all buildings and authorized them to correct code violations immediately.

The Public Authority of Manpower has also begun looking into the issue of overcrowding in housing for expatriate workers and failure to comply with safety conditions.

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