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Inspection campaign triggers chaos after deadly fire incident

Municipality issues stern warning over violations

By Zainab Al-Mashoor

KUWAIT: Following the tragic burnout in Mangaf that resulted in the death of 49 residents, Kuwait Municipality has issued a stern warning against storing leftover furniture, rubble, or any other materials in front of real estate apartment, staircases and basements. Property owners who violate this will face penalties and financial fines as per Municipal law. Inspections across various districts in Kuwait have compelled residents to remove their belongings, with no prior notice given for visits.

As building owners order residents to clear out their properties, building guards are rapidly disposing of items, resulting in piles of garbage littering the streets. Kuwait Times interviewed building guards, residents, and cleaning workers to understand the impact of these measures. Shihabuldeen, a labor worker with Kuwait Municipality, explained: “We come twice a day, starting at 4 am to 8 am, and again in the evening. We roam around the district, collecting solid materials and furniture to take to the Baladiya in Kabad, the Municipality's solid waste management project. Since the fire, the workload has increased significantly, as we haven't seen this many items disposed of in years.”

Jacqueline Mercado, a resident in Salmiya, recounted her experience: "Last Wednesday, I came home late from work and was forced to evacuate my studio, where I had lived for the past four years, without prior notice or even a three-day grace period to pack. I paid 160 KD for my rent and was moved to another flat with a rent of 350 KD, which I couldn't afford. The building owner suggested I share the apartment with another neighbor in the same situation. Now, I’m in chaos, living with a stranger and trying to unpack my belongings, many of which were lost or damaged.

This happened to about ten studios in my neighborhood, as they were rented unregistered which we didn’t even know. In old Salmiya Souq, many unregistered basement shops were demolished as well.” She added. Tom, a resident in Farwaniya, shares: "The day after the fire, my haris knocked on my door at 1 am, asking us to remove all our belongings from in front of the apartment and the warehouse. It took almost six hours to clear everything. The next morning, the municipality came for a checkup, but luckily our building didn't receive a fine.

However, the dustbin outside became a hill of discarded items. The area is cleaner now, but I worry that rents might increase as building owners try to recoup their losses of not being able to rent the basement or warehouse.” Abu Mustafa, a gatekeeper in Khaitan, said: "On the night of the fire, firefighters conducted a sudden inspection, and we received a warning letter from the municipality to remove all belongings. I heard from a friend in Farwaniya that they were fined even for a shoe rack, so we asked residents to remove them too.”

Lamia Shalabi, a resident in Hawally, commented: “We were asked to remove our bicycle from the staircase, and the building owner posted a warning letter on our doors to remove shoe racks after hearing about a 500 KD fine imposed on a building in Khaitan. It’s disturbing to have to put the shoe rack inside my already cramped apartment, and I had to get rid of some shoes and belongings to make space.” Moatasem Samara, another resident in Hawally, supported the decision: “A clean environment is essential, but does it really help? We had to throw out many necessary items but also take in some necessary items making it congested and more dangerous due to lack of space inside the apartments.

And given the shoe rack that were enforced indoors is suffocating. Even in mosques, shoes are not kept inside; how can we live, pray, and eat with shoes around us?” Nermeen Saab, a resident in Khaitan, noted: “Our building received a warning letter to remove our building's glass door because it wasn’t safe for emergency evacuations. The door only allowed one person to pass at a time, so they took it off on the same day to avoid penalties. Sharukh came home to find his kids' bicycles and the furniture at the staircase thrown away. It was upsetting to have them discarded without permission, but it was also a relief as he didn’t know what to do with the furniture.”

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