Male, Nov 10 (EFE).- A major fire that engulfed a residential complex housing foreign workers in the Maldives capital has killed at least one Bangladeshi and nine Indian migrants, said officials on Thursday.
The fire ripped through the three-floor building in Male Wednesday night and was quickly brought under control.
However, authorities fear the toll might rise as rescuers search for survivors under the debris.
“We have recovered 10 bodies from the fire. But we do not know how many people were living (inside the complex). The toll may rise. We are still working at the scene,” Maldives National Defence Force spokesperson Captain Hana Mohamed told EFE.
A police spokesperson said they had identified nine of the 10 dead.
“The nine are Indian nationals and the 10th is a Bangladeshi citizen,” the spokesperson told EFE.
Police said four adjacent buildings were evacuated.
The government set up special emergency housing and assistance services at a nearby football stadium.
Neighbors said more than 25 people lived in the building and most of them were Indians working in the Indian Ocean island nation.
“They have 10 rooms there with married couples living in each room. The conditions were bare minimal and we hardly slept a good night’s sleep,” said Reema, an Indian worker who previously lived in the building.
The police are investigating the fire.
According to Rescue Services, two fires were reported previously in the garage of the building and both cases were linked to negligence.
Migrant workers make up about half of Male’s 250,000 residents. Most foreign workers are from Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka.
“It is such devastating news,” said Fathimath Zimna, the general secretary of the Maldives Trade Union Congress.
“Migrants contribute to the growth of our economy. Most probably many [fire victims] are undocumented workers. With no right to a minimum wage or safety at work, likely, even their wages have not been paid,” Zimna said.
The archipelago consists of a chain of about 1,200 small coral islands and sandbanks and only 200 of which are inhabited, grouped in clusters, or atolls.
The tourism sector drives economic growth along with fishing and boat-building. EFE