Grieving families kept a solemn vigil in the terminal of an Indian airport Friday as the bodies of dozens of migrant workers killed in a Kuwait building fire returned home.

Wednesday's dawn blaze quickly engulfed a housing block home to foreign labourers. Fifty people died in the resulting inferno, 45 of them Indians, with dozens more hospitalised and anguished relatives back home frantically chasing news of whether their loved ones had perished.

"We held on to hope till the last minute that maybe he got out, maybe he's in the hospital," Anu Aby, the neighbour of 31-year-old victim Cibin Abraham, said.

Aby said Abraham had been due to return to his home in Kerala state in August for his child's first birthday.

Abraham had been on the phone talking to his wife just an hour before the fire began, he said.

Others sat in a waiting area at Kochi airport in India's south, wiping away tears as the Indian Air Force plane carrying the remains of their relatives touched down.

"It is an unending loss for the families of the deceased," Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan told reporters at the airport.

The blaze was one of the worst seen in Kuwait. Nearly 200 people were living in the building and many of the dead suffocated and the injured suffered smoke inhalation after being trapped by the flames, according to a fire department source.

The bodies of many of the dead were charred beyond recognition and needed to be formally identified through DNA testing before they were repatriated.

One Kuwaiti and two foreign residents have been detained on suspicion of manslaughter through negligence of security procedures and fire regulations, authorities in the Gulf state said on Thursday.

Interior Minister Sheikh Fahd al-Yousef vowed to address "labour overcrowding and neglect" and threatened to close any buildings that flout safety rules.

Three Filipinos were also among the dead, with the country's migrant workers secretary Hans Leo J Cacdac saying authorities were organising their own return efforts.

"The priority at this stage is the repatriation of human remains," he told a news briefing in Manila Friday.

Two more Filipinos were in intensive care after the fire.

"Let's pray for them," Cacdac said. "They are in critical condition."
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