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Kuwait fire leaves 24 families in India's Kerala state bereft



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By Jose Devasia and Chris Thomas

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM, India, June 13 (Reuters) -From a father-of-two who planned to leave his job to a 29-year-old due to visit his family in August, two dozen Indians from the southern state of Kerala died in a fire that ripped through a labour-housing facility in Kuwait on Wednesday, leaving their families bereft.

Around 40 Indians died in the blaze, which also killed at least 9 other people in Mangaf city, while more than 50 were injured, according to India's foreign ministry. Most of the Indian victims came from Kerala.

Norka Roots, a government agency for Keralites living outside the state, put the number of the state's dead at 24 with seven others injured and their condition serious. The federal government had arranged a special flight to bring the bodies, Norka Secretary K Vasuki said.

Among the Keralite victims was Muralidharan Nair, who had been working in Kuwait for 32 years, including 10 as a senior supervisor in the company that owned the housing facility where the fire broke out.

"He came on leave in December for two months with a plan to end his career in Kuwait. The company called him back," his brother, Vinu V Nair, told Reuters, adding that the family identified the 61-year-old from a list published by India's embassy. His two roommates also died in the blaze.

Millions of foreign workers make up the majority of the labour force in Kuwait and some of its Gulf neighbours, and often live in overcrowded accommodation.

For decades, a disproportionately large share of Indian workers in the Gulf have been drawn from Kerala, a densely packed state along southern India's Arabian Sea coast.

News of the disaster spread quickly in Kerala. The family of Saju Varghese, 56, found out about the fire from television and social media, and confirmed his death from friends and relatives in Kuwait.

Working in the Gulf nation for the last 21 years, Varghese planned to visit Kerala later this month to arrange his daughter's higher education.

"The family is in a state of shock," their neighbour, George Samuel, said.

Another victim, Stephin Abraham Sabu, 29, was an engineer in Kuwait since 2019 and called home almost daily.

He had visited his hometown Kottayam "two or three times" since he left, and had booked air tickets to return in August for the housewarming of his family's new home and to help them buy a new car, his friends said.

Sabu's father has a small shop in Kottayam while his mother is a housewife. His brother, Febin, also works in Kuwait but lived separately.

Authorities in Kuwait have not officially disclosed the nationalities of those who died. The other dead included three Filipino workers, the Philippine migrant workers ministry said on Thursday, adding that two others were hospitalised and in critical condition.



Additional reporting by Mikhail Flores in Manila
Writing by Sakshi Dayal

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