Deputy Emir orders probe as 19 die in Villaggio inferno
DOHA ABLAZE in the city’s Villaggio mall left 19 people dead and 17 others injured on Monday, Minister of Public Health HE Abdullah bin Khalid al Qahtani told the media hours after the incident.
The fire broke out at around 11.00 am, he told a press conference at the Ministry of Interior headquarters in Duhail, which was also addressed by Minister of State for Interior Affairs and Cabinet Member HE Sheikh Abdullah bin Nasser bin Khalifa al Thani, Director of the Operations at the General Administration of Civil Defence Brigadier General Hamad Othman al Duhaymi and Officer at the Investigation and Rescue Team Captain Khamis al Marrikhi.
Among those who lost their lives were 13 children who had gone to the Gympanzee nursery school located inside the mall, Qahtani said. Of them, six were boys and seven girls. The children were from Japan, Spain and the Philippines, among other countries.
“No Qatari died in the incident,” he stressed.
Four woman teachers working at the nursery school also died in the accident. Three of them were from the Philippines and one from South Africa. Two firefighters also lost their lives in trying to rescue the victims, he said. The firefighters were Arabs, he said without disclosing their nationalities.
The injured were immediately rushed to the Hamad General Hospital, where four of them with relatively minor injuries, were discharged after being administered the required medication. The rest are still under medical supervision at the hospital, he said.
The minister of state for interior affairs and cabinet member said that since access was impossible through the gates of the mall, the roof had to be opened to rescue the trapped children. The thick smoke emanating from the fire prevented the firefighters from accessing the nursery through the corridor, he explained. Besides, the heat was unbearable making their task even more difficult, he added.
Despite this, “the firefighters were all very eager to get into the mall and risk their lives to rescue the children”, he said praising their courage. Asked if some firefighters from a foreign nationality refused orders to enter the mall, he said “we should not believe those spreading such rumours.” In response to another query, he said the causes of the fire are still unknown and that a committee has been formed to investigate the circumstances of the incident.
“The outcome of the investigations will be communicated to the press,” he said adding that the “mall would remain closed till investigations are over.” He said as soon as the Operations at the General Administration of Civil Defence received information about the occurrence of fire (exactly at 11.02 am), the security forces headed for the mall. He expressed appreciation of the fact that the response — from receiving the information to the security forces accessing the scene — was very fast.