When City Center mall was shuttered indefinitely three weeks ago for flouting emergency safety standards, many Qatar residents lauded the country’s efforts to improve fire safety.
That was two weeks after a fire broke out at Villaggio mall, killing 19 people.
But now, well into a searing Doha summer filled with dust storms and falling objects – plus no indication that either mall will reopen anytime soon – a feeling akin to desperation is starting to set in.
“Our side of town has been handicapped, we need Villaggio OPEN!” commenter Audrey Di Agostino wrote on a recent Doha News post.
On Qatar Living, commenter wirehead said:
this sudden closure of city center has been doing damage to my mind… it’s also making me think that impulse buying is good after all. you never know when the mall you frequent will suddenly shut down and you’ll never get to buy the things you’ve been eyeing for weeks.
There’s also the matter of safety.
According to the Peninsula, some 70,000 people used to visit City Center mall on the weekends.
Karwa drivers who still operate at City Center said they often drive those who are turned away from the mall to Lagoona and Landmark, the seemingly most popular second choices.
But whether those shopping centers can handle the crowd overflow is a cause for concern among many residents.
Gulf Times reports:
“We are experiencing a lucrative business and the turnout is generally very high in the afternoons,” an official from a shopping centre said. “We welcome all customers, whether they come to buy or just to walk around. We cannot turn them away and tell them it is too crowded, come at some other time. That will be silly and insulting. However, what we can do is that we guarantee a well-ventilated place with adequate safety measures and equipment at hand,” the official said…
“After the fire tragedy at Villaggio, I keep a close eye on my children as they play and never leave them alone. However, my worry is that suppose something wrong happens, the chances of a stampede and panic would be high with so many people around,” (a young mother) said.
Some malls insist they have safety plans in place in case of an emergency.
But there has been no mention of the maximum capacity of these spaces and whether that limit is being breached due to overcrowding by a sweaty, bored populace.
Credit: Photo by Nathan Rubert