Four of the youngsters who died were Spanish, said a foreignministry spokeswoman in Madrid, while Paris announced that athree-year-old French child also perished. In Wellington, New Zealand Prime Minister John Key said the deathof the triplets, believed to be three-year-olds, was "a greattragedy". The children's grandparents were flying to Qatar to support thefamily and New Zealand consular officials were offering assistance,he added. Radio New Zealand named the triplets as Lillie, Jackson andWillsher Weekes. |
The blaze at the Villaggio mall left 19 dead in total, including 13children -- seven girls and six boys -- and four female teachers,the Qatari interior ministry said on its Twitter account, citingthe health minister. Two civil defence personnel also died, it said. Footage posted online showed black smoke billowing from theupmarket, Venice-themed complex as emergency vehicles rushed to thescene. The fire broke out at a nursery, state minister for the interiorAbdullah bin Nasser Al-Thani told reporters. "The first report of fire at Villaggio was received by theoperations centre at 11:02 am (0802 GMT)," he said, according tothe QNA state news agency, adding that police and civil defencereached the site within minutes.
He said it became clear that 20 children were at the first-floornursery and "all efforts were concentrated on evacuating thosekids", adding firefighters had to break through the roof to gainaccess after a staircase collapsed. Dense smoke inside the mall combined with the fierce temperaturefrom the flames made reaching the trapped children very difficult,a civil defence representative told a news conference. Expatriate New Zealand journalist Tarek Bazley said he was in theshopping centre with his two children when the fire broke out, butthey escaped unharmed. "The volume of smoke coming out of it, it looked like you had 30steam trains all pumping their smoke out above it," Bazley toldRadio New Zealand. But he said there was a lack of urgency from officials in the mallwhen alarms went off and complained of a "complete lack ofplanning, a complete lack of coordination in terms of removingpeople from this area".
"The first thing I heard of it was a very benign fire alarm, itsounded more like a door bell to be honest," he said. Health Minister Khaled al-Qahtani said all the fatalities werecaused by asphyxiation, adding that 17 people were injured, mostlyfirefighters. Crown Prince Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani ordered a specialcommission set up to probe the deadly blaze, the Doha-basedAl-Jazeera satellite television station reported. In Madrid, a foreign ministry spokeswoman said: "Four of the deadchildren are Spanish," adding that Spanish embassy officials weretrying to get more details.
Yamina Benguigui, the minister in charge of French expatriates,announced in Paris that a French child died, but declined to giveany further details, including whether the victim was a boy or agirl. "It is with great sorrow that I confirm that a French child agedthree is among the victims," she said in a statement. Villaggio Mall was opened in 2006, boasting a mall area of 125,000square metres and featuring a canal on which genuine gondolas ferryvisitors. Thanks to its oil and natural gas wealth and a population of lessthan two million people, mostly foreigners, Qatar is one of theworld's richest countries in income per capita terms, coming secondonly to tiny Liechtenstein.
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