PATHANAMTHITTA, India: Veena George, Kerala's Minister for Health and Woman and Child Development, consoles the mother of Akash Sasidharan Nair, one of the victims of a fire that broke out in Kuwait, on June 13, 2024. - Reuters
PATHANAMTHITTA, India: Veena George, Kerala's Minister for Health and Woman and Child Development, consoles the mother of Akash Sasidharan Nair, one of the victims of a fire that broke out in Kuwait, on June 13, 2024. - Reuters

Kerala in shock as fire stubs out lives and dreams

KUWAIT: Lukose, 48, bought a gift for his daughter on her meritorious victory in her 12th grade examination and wanted to present it to her when he would go home next month. But fate decided otherwise and he was one of the 50 victims who lost their lives in the deadly fire that engulfed a building in Mangaf on Tuesday.

Lukose alias Sabu, who hailed from the Kollam district of Kerala state of India and had been working in Kuwait for the last 18 years was the sole breadwinner of his family and the lone supporter of his aged parents. His motionless body was found at the foot of the staircase of the ill-fated building.

Reji Varghese said his close friend Lukose was staying on the sixth floor of the block. His death was reported by another worker who leapt from the second floor, breaking his leg, to escape. “I’m still not able to come to terms with it.

We didn’t believe the news when we heard about it,” said Varghese. “I spoke to him just last week... This news is a shock.”

The entire state of Kerala was in mourning on Wednesday since most of the fire victims were from Kerala. While many families in Kerala prayed that news about their dear ones was not true, official reports on Wednesday said out of 46 Indians who died in the devastating fire — with most of the deaths attributed to smoke inhalation – 20 have been identified so far. Three Filipinos also lost their lives in the tragedy.

According to hospital sources, seven people still remain critical in ICUs. Kerala’s Health Minister Veena George will reach Kuwait to coordinate the rescue efforts and assist the families of the dead and injured. According to Non-resident Keralites Association (NoRKA-Roots), 24 Malayalis died in the tragedy. Norka-Roots CEO Ajith said it has set up a help desk following the tragedy in Kuwait. Meanwhile, the Kerala government has canceled the inaugural events of the Loka Kerala Sabha.

Many of the Indians who lost their lives were from low-income families and arrived in Kuwait with high hopes and big dreams, but the ghastly blaze not only claimed the lives of the breadwinners of their families but stubbed out their dreams. Thomas Ommen, 37, from Mepral, Tiruvalla, who died in the fire had planned to go back to Kerala next month to inaugurate his new house, a long-cherished dream and the result of his four years of hard work as a technician in Kuwait.

Sreehari Pradeep, 27, from Changanachery, Kerala, came to Kuwait only on June 5 with a lot of hopes and aspirations to take up a new job. It was painful for his father to identify his body at the Sabah mortuary. The grief-stricken father managed to identify his son from the tattoo his son had on his hand. The tragedy struck Kelu Ponmaleri, a native of Thrikaripur, Kerala, who was planning to go back to Kerala soon after wrapping up his 20 years of expat life for a family reunion.

Although, 50 deaths have officially been confirmed, identification of the bodies is still incomplete as many bodies have been charred beyond recognition. Among the other victims was Muralidharan Nair, who had been working in Kuwait for 32 years as a senior supervisor in the company that owned the housing facility where the fire broke out. 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.

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.

Shameer Umarudheen’s “entire village is in mourning”, said Safedu, a relative of the 33-year-old victim from Kollam. “He was a lovely man. Always very friendly to everyone around,” Safedu added. “He does not come from a well-off family, so him going to Kuwait was a chance for the family to do better.”

Thrikaripur native Nalinakshan had a narrow escape as he managed to jump from the third floor of the building on a water tank below as the fire spread to the upper floors and people started to cry out. He survived with some injuries. According to reports, some of the victims died when they jumped from the building in a desperate bid to escape the fire. – With inputs from Agencies

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