49 die in fire at Kuwait building housing foreign workers

KUWAIT    -  CITY More than 35 people were killed and dozens injured after a fire broke out at dawn in a building housing nearly 200 foreign workers in Kuwait, officials said on Wednesday.

Forty-three people were injured, the health ministry said, in the blaze in the Mangaf area south of Kuwait City which is heavily populated with migrant labourers. “Unfortunately, we received a report of a fire at... exactly 6:00 am (0300 GMT) in the Mangaf area,” Major General Eid Al-Owaihan, head of the interior ministry’s General Department of Criminal Evidence, said at the site. “As for the deaths in the building behind me, the number has exceeded 35 so far.” Images from the scene showed soot blackening the exterior of the six-storey building which housed 196 workers, according to information given to the 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.

According to a source in the General Fire Department, the victims suffocated from rising smoke after the fire broke out on the ground floor. Forensic teams are working at the site and have identified three bodies so far, Owaihan said. The nationalities of the victims have not been announced but the Indian ambassador, when contacted by AFP, said he was at the hospital visiting survivors.

The building’s owner has been detained in an investigation into potential negligence, Interior Minister Sheikh Fahd Al-Yousef said as he visited the scene.