MP blames negligence, greed for blaze deaths

January 16, 2013

A Bahraini lawmaker has lashed out at the “scandalous carelessness about the lives of expatriates, particularly from Asia”, the “negligence of the labour and municipality ministries” and the “greed of some business owners and free visa Mafiosi.”

Police in Bahrain reported that 13 workers, mainly from Bangladesh, were killed on Friday when a fire broke out at a crammed and unlicensed building in which they were staying in downtown Manama.

Firefighters needed several hours to put out the flames and to take out the charred bodies of the victims following the collapse of the roof.

“The tragedy keeps on repeating itself as if nothing similar had happened,” MP Abdul Halim Murad, the head of Al Asala, the expression of Salafism in Bahrain, said. “It is as if the lives of these poor people meant nothing. This new tragedy happened only months after the May fire in which 10 people were killed in an eerily ominous repeat. These tragedies are the result of excessive neglect and the unfitness of their residences. These people lived crammed in a dilapidated building that is not fit for human life. There were 270 people in a three-storey building with eight people in every room,” he said.

The labour and municipality ministries and businesspeople were particularly responsible for the tragic situation, he said.

“Those who are officially tasked with monitoring the labour accommodations are responsible for the deaths by fire of these labourers,” he said. “The labour ministry is not obviously assuming its duties stipulated in the 1978 ministerial decision to inspect labour accommodations to ensure that conditions are adequate,” he said.

The lawmaker said statements by the labour minister and the Bahrain Chamber for Commerce and Industry (BICI) to express grief and offer condolences were not sufficient.

“Such statements seek to exempt themselves from assuming their responsibilities and to blame others for what happened,” he said.

MPs should take up the discussion of a draft law on labour accommodation in order to speed up the procedures and pass it to the upper chamber, he said.

“We need to have an investigation team to look into the fire and hold officials responsible as per the penal law. The victims are people and their lives are dear. They had families, sons, daughters and their rights should be fully protected and preserved. We as Muslims have been asked by God to respect all people and it is not appropriate for our country to witness such recurring tragedies,” he said.

Interior ministry officials said that the fire broke out on Friday afternoon and that civil defence teams rushed to the site. However, their task was rendered more difficult by the collapse of the roof and the windy conditions.

At least ten people, including a firefighter, were also injured in the blaze and the number of casualties could rise as servicemen clear the debris.

Witnesses reported that several people, mainly from the Bangladeshi and Pakistani communities, were able to survive by pulling out window air conditioners and using the holes as escape routes.

Some of the survivors said the building was unlicensed by the municipality ministry but was sub-let to two people to use as accommodation for mainly free visa workers.

The blaze also left dozens of people homeless as a bitter cold is sweeping Bahrain.

Several charity organisations have pledged to assist with food, clothes and shelter.

An NGO looking after expatriate workers said the main concern would be providing accommodation for those who urgently needed it.



About the author

Born August 3, 1960 in Monastir, Tunisia
Media career:
  • ABC News (Tunisia)
  • Bahrain Tribune
  • Gulf News
  • Bahrain Television News
Teaching career:
  • Monastir (Tunisia)
  • University of Bahrain
  • MA  Mass Communications, University of Leicester
  • BA  in English & US literature and studies, University of Tunis

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