At least 10 people have died and several others were injured Thursday after a fire ravaged a building housing foreign workers in Maldives’s capital Male.
Fire service officials said they had recovered 10 bodies, and the victims were found on the upper floor of the building that was damaged in the fire, The New Indian Express reported.
The cause of the fire wasn’t immediately known. The blaze originated from a ground-floor vehicle repair garage. The crews battled the flames for about four hours before being able to put it out completely.
Of the 10 victims, nine were revealed to be Indians. The 10th victim was identified as a Bangladesh national.
“We are deeply saddened by the tragic fire incident in Malé which has caused loss of lives, including reportedly of Indian nationals. We are in close contact with the Maldivian authorities. For any assistance, HCI can be reached on the following numbers: +9607361452; +9607790701,” the High Commission of India in Maldives tweeted.
The Foreign Minister of the country tweeted, “Deeply saddened by the news of a tragic 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.”
According to a report, nearly 250,000 migrants live in Male, making up half of the population. Most of them hail from Bangladesh, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. The harsh living conditions and mistreatment of these migrants were exposed after the COVID-19 pandemic, another report mentioned.
Abuse from employers including deceptive recruitment practices, inappropriate wages, passport confiscation, and unsafe working and living conditions were some of the issues brought to the fire, clearly indicating forced labor and violation of domestic and international standards.
“The COVID-19 crisis has compounded perennial abuses and toppled whatever precarious existence migrant workers in the Maldives may have achieved. The government’s failure to effectively regulate recruitment and employment practices puts already vulnerable migrants into abusive situations, then traps them there,” Shayna Bauchner, Asia researcher at Human Rights Watch had said at the time.