x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Authorities yet to release villa blaze victims' bodies

Relatives of the 11 victims who died in a fire that destroyed an overcrowded villa said authorities had not released the bodies of their loved ones.

DUBAI // Relatives of the 11 victims who died in a fire that destroyed an overcrowded villa housing 500 labourers said yesterday that authorities had not yet released the bodies of their loved ones. The victims, 10 of whom were from India and one from Bangladesh, were burnt beyond recognition in the blaze that destroyed the two-storey villa in the Naif area of Dubai on Aug 26. Their bodies were taken to the mortuary in Al Qusais for DNA tests to establish their identities.

Two weeks after the fire, however, relatives say they have not been told when they can send the bodies home and are appealing to the authorities to release them soon. "We have been visiting the police and the consulate almost every day," said Yadla Srinivas, whose brother Devarajanna and relative Talari Gangadhar died in the fire. "We have just been told that the DNA tests have not been completed yet. We think the process may take many more days."

Most of the dead are from the south Indian state of Andhra Pradesh, with at least eight coming from the Karimnagar district. Relatives told The National that their village is devastated by the tragedy and the fact that the bodies had still not reached them was adding to their sorrow. "The families are in very bad shape. They call us every day to find out about the situation here. We do not know what to tell them," said Mr Srinivas.

Many of the men who died were married with young children. "Unable to handle the sorrow, their wives are threatening suicide," he said. The Indian consulate in Dubai said it was aware of the relatives' concerns. "We are in daily touch with the Dubai Police on this matter," said Venu Rajamony, the consul general. "Once the bodies are released we will try and expedite all the other procedures." The Naif villa caught fire in the early hours when most of the workers living there were asleep. The house had been illegally split into more than 30 rooms housing more than 500 men.

People were seen jumping from windows in panic as they tried to escape. Many of those who survived are now living with friends, although some remain homeless. "Many of us spend the nights on footpaths, parks and even rooftop of buildings," said one. The Indian consulate has found temporary accommodation for 42 workers at a labour camp in Al Quoz. pmenon@thenational.ae