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Pingul family


Pingul family

Updated at 11.30am with HMC statement

UPDATE | Dec. 14, 2015: The father and daughter who were hospitalized after the fire have also died. See our updated report here.

A prominent Filipina community member has been killed and her husband and daughter critically injured in a house fire that broke out early Sunday Monday morning, her family has confirmed.

Chona Rian-Pingul, 47, and her family members were asleep in their fourth-floor apartment in Doha’s Al Muntazah district when a fire apparently started in the bedroom of 13-year-old daughter Micaela.

Photo for illustrative purposes only.


Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Police were called to the residential block at around 2:40am on Monday morning. Emergency services rescued Chona, husband Rafael Paule (known as Raffy) and their children Micaela and Rafael Lorenzo, 15, from the blaze.

All were taken to Hamad General Hospital, a close family member told Doha News.

Son Rafael was alert and walking when he was rescued, but the rest of the family was unconscious. Hospital emergency staff were unable to resuscitate Chona and she died, her brother-in-law Sherwin Borras said.

Raffy and Micaela remain in a critical condition in the hospital’s intensive care unit. Son Rafael was released from hospital yesterday, Borras added.

Police are still understood to be investigating the cause of the fire.

According to Borras, the couple and their children were asleep in three separate rooms when the blaze started. He continued:

“Rafael told us he thought the fire might have started from the AC unit in Micaela’s room, but we don’t know this for sure. It may also have been due to the bedside light.

He told us that he woke up and his room was full of smoke. There was fire coming out of Micaela’s room.”

The family were active in the Catholic Church of Our Lady of the Rosary and set up a faith group Couples for Christ in 2000. They were well-known in the Filipino and Catholic communities in Qatar.

‘Helpful and loving’

Speaking to Doha News, a representative of the church said a service would be held soon for the family, once authorities complete their investigation into the incident.

Raffy and Chona Pingul


Raffy and Chona Pingul

Paying tribute to his sister-in-law and family, Borras said:

So many friends and colleagues came to the hospital to support us when they heard what happened. They have the love of many, many people in Qatar. They are the reason I am here in Qatar – they brought me here. They were so helpful and loving.”

Rian-Pingul had lived in Doha for 16 years after moving from Bahrain and worked at Qatar Shell as a contract analyst since 2008, Borras said. She is from the city of Legazpi in Albay province in the Philippines, according to her Facebook profile.

Speaking to Doha News, a Shell spokeswoman said that staff were informed of Rian-Pingul’s passing in a message sent by senior officials yesterday. A statement from the company said:

“It is with profound sadness that we learned of the tragic loss of our colleague Chona and the hospitalization of her husband and daughter. Chona was a cherished member of the Qatar Shell family and she will be greatly missed.

Our hearts are with Chona’s family as we seek to support them during this unfortunate tragedy.”

Husband Raffy hails from Floridablanca in Pampanga and has worked for Hamad Medical Corp. (HMC) as an operating theater technician since 1999.

HMC sent a memo to its staff yesterday advising them of the incident, and adding that it has “taken immediate steps to find suitable emergency accommodation” for other families living in the residential block affected by the fire.

“Our team at Hamad General Hospital, with help from others, is doing everything possible to support this family and their loved ones. Our thoughts and prayers are with the Pingul family at this difficult time,” the HMC statement said.

The couple have another daughter studying in the Philippines and she is understood to be flying to Qatar today.


Note: This article has been edited to correctly refer to the date of the fire as Monday (Dec. 7), not Sunday as previously stated.

Ninoy Aquino International Airport


Ninoy Aquino International Airport

Updated at 19.30 with comment from a passenger on the flight.

Additional reporting by Victoria Scott

Some 40 passengers on board a Qatar Airways flight from Doha to Manila yesterday, Sept. 5, were reportedly injured when the aircraft landed amid turbulence.

The QR932 flight, which left Hamad International Airport at 1:40am yesterday, was approaching Ninoy Aquino International Airport at around 3pm local time (10am in Qatar) when it “experienced downdraft and affected passengers who were not wearing a seatbelt”, the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines told news site Interaksyon.

Photo for illustrative purposes only


Photo for illustrative purposes only

Some 20 minutes later, the pilot of the Boeing 777 aircraft requested priority landing from Manila tower citing the injured passengers, the site added.

Three children and two flight attendants were among those who sustained injuries, which mostly involved abrasions, the Manila International Airport Authority told Inquirer.

However, one passenger on the flight said the incident happened earlier, around an hour before the aircraft was due to land.

She said on Twitter that the pilot had just told passengers to start preparing for the descent, and as a result many had taken off their seat belts to get themselves organized.

She had been waiting in the queue for the toilet at the time of the incident, and previous to that, the flight had been very smooth, she added.

“I flew up and dropped down good,” she continued, describing what happened to her. She said she later received medical treatment for high blood pressure.

A passenger who was waiting for a flight from Manila to Qatar, told Doha News he saw people coming off of the affected aircraft on wheelchairs.

Passengers were met at the airport gate by medics with first aid kits and at least one small oxygen tank, he said.

Meanwhile, the return flight to Doha was delayed by three hours as airport authorities in Manila issued a thunderstorm warning.

In a statement to Doha News, the airline confirmed the incident and said:

“Of those reporting injury, three were sent to the hospital for further evaluation. They were discharged last night after being provided the necessary medical assistance.

The safety and well-being of all passengers and crew is our top priority. We remain in touch with affected passengers and crew, and are ready to provide any further assistance required.”

In June, Qatar Airways announced it was adding six flights a week to its route between Doha and Manila, bringing the total weekly number of flights to Ninoy Aquino airport to 15.

The national carrier, which also operates seven flights weekly between Doha and Clark International Airport, has seen increasing competition after low-cost carrier Cebu Pacific Air began offering direct flights between Doha and Manila this summer.


Turbulence can be caused by different weather and air conditions, and ranges in severity.

Light turbulence is classified as when an aircraft varies just a few feet in altitude; medium causes drinks to spill and the altitude to change around 20ft; and severe turbulence is “extremely rare,” according to British Airways’ training captain Steve Allright.

“In a flying career of over 10,000 hours, I have experienced severe turbulence for about five minutes in total. It is extremely uncomfortable but not dangerous,” he wrote in the Daily Telegraph.

Were you on the affected flight? Thoughts?

For illustrative purposes only.

darkthirty / Flickr

For illustrative purposes only.

The Philippines embassy in Qatar has called upon a former restaurant owner to take responsibility for an employee who has been left homeless for the past eight months and is trying to leave the country.

The young Filipino man, who asked not to be named, is currently living in the Roti King at the Al Jazeera Petrol Station. The restaurant, which is undergoing renovations, has been his home since last September.

He told Doha News that he simply wants to return to his home country, preferably with the back pay that he says he’s owed.

“One day, my sponsor just said that he couldn’t provide me with any more accommodation or transport, so we had to live in a stockroom on the first floor of the restaurant. He told us that if Baladiya came, we had to lock the door, but that we could stay there for now,” he said.


Chantelle D'Mello / Doha News


He added that he is not in possession of his passport and that his Qatar ID has expired. This leaves him vulnerable to being arrested if he’s stopped by the police and may create problems when he does eventually try to leave the country.

The Philippines embassy has “advised” the man’s sponsor to pay his employee his unpaid March salary, his end-of-service gratuity and “process his exit formalities.”

A spokesperson for the embassy told Doha News that it has not received any response to its letter, which was dated April 4. The spokesperson said he was waiting to discuss the situation with the man further before deciding on any additional action.

Contract swapped

The man said he came to Qatar in September 2012 under a contract seen by Doha News, to work for a cleaning and hospitality company. However, when he arrived in the country, the man said he was told that the company was not operating and that he’d work as a server at Roti King instead, despite holding a degree in restaurant management.

“I studied for four years, and to see where I’m working now. It’s sad. I didn’t work so hard to do this,” he said.

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Along with being assigned a different job, the man said the QR1,500 monthly salary he was promised was reduced to QR1,000.

Contract substitution, where expats are promised a different salary and job in their home country than what awaits them in Qatar, is one of the most frequently documented issues by human rights advocates who study migrant rights.

This weekend, The Peninsula reported on the case of an expat who came to Qatar on a domestic cook’s visa, only to be forced to work on a livestock farm near the Saudi border.

Some expats have said they would not have come to Qatar if they knew how little money they’d actually be making, especially since many are forced to accumulate debts in their home country to pay illegal recruitment fees.

How to effectively police the issue from Qatar, however, is less than clear since many of the transgressions happen outside the country’s borders. Some labor-sending countries, such as Bangladesh, have responded by signing agreements with Qatar that force companies in this country to only hire nationals who are registered in a government database in their home country.

No way home

Despite the lower pay, the man said he continued to work at the restaurant to help support his family in the Philippines, where his father was undergoing dialysis treatment.

When his father passed away in April 2014, the man said he asked to return home and submitted a request for emergency leave. That was denied on the grounds that the restaurant was short-staffed, but the man said he was promised that he’d be allowed to take time off in January 2015.

He said he hasn’t left Qatar since arriving in 2012, despite being promised a free roundtrip ticket to Manila in his contract, which has since expired and not been renewed.

Even more serious problems emerged last fall when his sponsor told the man to vacate his accommodations near the Safari Hypermarket and relocate to the restaurant ahead of its sale to a new owner and closure for renovations.

The bed used by a former Roti King employee inside the restaurant, which is being renovated.


The bed used by a former Roti King employee inside the restaurant, which is being renovated.

When Doha News visited Roti King on Thursday, the man’s pillows, mattress, clothes and cooking utensils were visible around the restaurant.

Cutlery and foodstuff were stored in a small dirt-laden room inside the bathroom, while an open stove was placed in the middle of what will be the restaurant’s seating area. Upstairs, the man’s thin mattress and pillow lay on a new marble floor.

He said that he’s occasionally able to shower and do laundry at a friend’s home and that he spends his days helping with the restaurant’s renovations, assisting and cleaning up after the construction contractors.

He said two of his coworkers found themselves in similar circumstances, but that one managed to transfer his sponsorship to the restaurant’s new owner.

However, the young Filipino man said he’s not interested in signing a new contract or remaining in Qatar after learning how the country’s sponsorship laws leave employees such as him at the mercy of their employer.

“All I want to do now is go back home,” he said.