Male: Eight Indians were among 10 people who died early Thursday when a major fire broke out in the garage below a cramped living quarters that housed foreign workers here in the Maldivian capital, an Indian High Commission official said.
The fire broke out in the M Nirufehi area near the Maaveyo Mosque around 12:30 am.
"Ten people were confirmed dead, of which eight were Indian nationals. We are yet to ascertain the nationalities of the two other victims," Ramdhir Singh, Welfare Officer, working in the Indian High Commission here told PTI.
In a tweet, the Indian High Commission said Maldivian authorities have confirmed the loss of 10 lives in the unfortunate incident. The process of identification of the deceased is ongoing.
Meanwhile, MEA spokperson Arindam Bagchi, have revealed "Till such time that we are able to identify the bodies as Indian citizens. I would not like to confirm how many Indian have passed away... Initial reports indicate a fire in the building. Maldivian govt has announced a thorough investigation for the same."
"We are deeply saddened by the tragic fire incident in Male which has caused loss of lives," it said, adding that the mission is in close contact with the local authorities.
It said that the High Commission is reaching out to the families of the affected Indian nationals.
"For any assistance, HCI can be reached on the following numbers: +9607361452 ; +9607790701," the mission added.
Maldivian Foreign Minister Abdulla Shahid said he was "deeply saddened" by the tragic news of fire in Male that has taken the lives of 10 expatriate workers and affected several families.
"Our thoughts and prayers are with families of the deceased and affected. A full investigation is underway," he added.
The garage is located on the ground floor of the building, while the first-floor housed migrant workers. The living quarters had only a single window, according to news portal SunOnline international.
38 migrant workers from Bangladesh, India and Sri Lanka
There were 38 migrant workers from Bangladesh, India and Sri Lanka living in the building, with a gas cylinder next to each bed, Maldives National Defence Force said.
Maldives National Disaster Authority (MNDA)'s chief Hisan Hassan said 28 people were rescued from the building.
He said 19 of them had been taken away by their employers while nine people remain under MNDA's care - six women and three men.
Colonel Ibrahim Rasheed, Commandant, MNDF Fire and Rescue Service said the garage had been the scene of a previous fire - which resulted from negligence while working with gas cutters.
Gas cylinders placed next to beds
He said there were gas cylinders placed next to beds inside the migrant quarters.
"Therefore, (we have been informed) there were gas cylinders placed next to practically each bed," he was quoted as saying by the SunOnline.
"There were a lot of gas cylinders here. Different types of gas. The garage was located on the ground floor. We therefore found it very challenging to fight the fire." The fire was doused at 04:34 am, he said.
Ibrahim said the dead bodies recovered from the scene were severely burnt, making it difficult to identify them or even determine their sex.
Foreign workers constitute about half of Male's 250,000-strong population, who are mostly from Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.