Villaggio fire investigation: Perfect storm of negligence, lack of preparedness contributed to deaths

UPDATE: Thursday, 6:32am 

We’ve updated the “Conditions and circumstances” of the official report after QNA posted it. See it embedded below.

It appears a perfect storm of negligence and lack of preparation contributed to the death of 19 people in the deadly Villaggio fire two weeks ago, the official investigation has found.

The report dealt with the technical details of the fire. Criminal matters will be handled by the prosecutor’s office, QNA reports.

The problem started at 10:50am when Nike employees noticed and failed to put out the fire, which began in the mezzanine due to faulty electrical wiring in a fluorescent light, which led to the ignition of its plastics components before spreading to flammable materials.

The smoke quickly spread to Gympanzee, which was not licensed as a nursery and thus did not have the necessary safety conditions, the report states.

There, 19 people – 13 children, four teachers and two firefighters – died of smoke inhalation. 

Poor coordination between government agencies responsible for responding to the fire was also an issue; Civil Defense did not know children were trapped in the mall until 30 minutes after they arrived on the scene.

Because of this, firefighters who arrived on the scene at 11:05am did not reach those trapped in the nursery until 12:50pm. 

Some government agencies have not exercised their powers in public safety, especially in cases of “grave breaches,” states the report, adding that deficiencies in fire standards extend beyond malls and into other building in Qatar.

The investigative committee found:

A status of lack of adherence to required laws, systems, and measure by all concerned parties to different degree. This includes adherence to design, license, and safety conditions, which contributed to Villagio catastrophe.

The report included 11 recommendations to prevent or reduce the risk of similar incidents in the future, including:

  • A review of regulations governing the activities of care facilities for children (nurseries) because they follow a narrow definition, which allows for registration under different names such as “activity center,” which “opens the door to circumvent” requirements needed to obtain licenses from the Ministry of Social Affairs.
  • The preparation of a complete list of buildings and facilities not following the laws, as soon as possible, to ensure compliance.

The Heir Apparent Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani has ordered the recommendations contained in the technical report be sent to the Cabinet to implement as soon as possible.

Here’s what happened, according to QNA, which wasn’t initially linkable, so we put it in a Word document. We’ll update with the full list of recommendations as they come in.

Thoughts?

Credit: Photo by Housam Elkouteini

This article previously incorrectly stated that fire spread to Gympanzee. It has been corrected to say smoke actually spread there.

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