Qatar reels after Villaggio fire kills 19, including 13 children

Nineteen expats have been killed, including 13 children and 2 firefighters, in a fire at Villaggio Mall that residents are calling Qatar’s biggest tragedy in recent memory.

Seventeen additional people were injured, 13 of whom remain in the hospital, officials said. 

The cause of death for many of the children – six boys, seven girls – and the four teachers was suffocation due to smoke inhalation, the health minister said.

Officials are investigating the cause of the fire, which started around 11am in or around the Gympanzee nursery that trapped more than 20 children and staff members in the mall.

Though officials said response time was quick – Al Fazaa was on the scene one minute after receiving a call about the fire – lack of floorplans, thick smoke and heat and malfunctioning sprinkler systems severely inhibited rescue efforts.

Firefighters eventually had to go in through the roof, officials said, adding that rescue teams had not been initially alerted to the fact that many of those trapped inside were children.

“We tried our best, but when we got there, the children were trapped inside. We are very sorry for what happened. We tried as much as we could to save these people,” the minister of state said.

No mall officials were available to speak at a press conference Monday night, but unconfirmed reports say that two managers have been arrested and may face charges in court tomorrow.

And the state minister has said a higher committee will be formed to follow the matter of safety requirements at buildings.

The health minister said an official list of the dead will not be released, but media reports say three New Zealanders, four Spanish children and a French child were among those killed.

Doha News is trying to compile one to help the community mourn collectively.

Villaggio Mall will be closed indefinitely pending a thorough investigation and to make necessary repairs, officials said.

Credit: Photo by Rashid/Adabisc

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